ER Visits Involving Sleep Drug Overmedication Almost Doubles

The number of emergency department visits involving the sleep drug zolpidem (the active ingredient in Ambien) almost doubled over four years, according to a new government report.

Zolpidem-related ER visits rose from 21,824 in 2005-2006, to 42,274 in 2009-2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found. In 2010, females accounted for two-thirds of zolpidem-related ER visits involving overmedication. The largest number of visits related to overmedication with the drug involved patients ages 45 to 54.

More than half of zolpidem-related ER visits also involved other prescription drugs, including other anti-anxiety and insomnia medications and narcotic pain relievers. In addition, 14 percent of visits involved alcohol combined with zolpidem.

Full story of sleep drug over medication at

Medications to Help People Stop Drinking Rarely Prescribed

A new study finds two medications that can help people quit drinking are rarely used. The drugs, naltrexone and acamprosate, could be helping many thousands of people, the researchers say.

The drugs reduce alcohol cravings. They have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating alcoholism for more than a decade, The New York Times reports. Many doctors are not aware of the drugs’ usefulness, or question their effectiveness, the article notes.

The researchers reviewed data on about 23,000 people in 122 studies. They concluded that in order to prevent one person from returning to drinking, the number needed to take acamprosate was 12, and the number needed to take naltrexone was 20. In contrast, large studies of widely-used drugs such as cholesterol-lowering statins have found that 25 to more than 100 people need treatment to prevent one heart event.

Full story of medications to stop drinking at

More States Soften Approach to Low-Level Drug Use

A growing number of states are changing their approach to low-level drug users, emphasizing treatment instead of incarceration, according to The Washington Post. The change is a result of both reduced budgets and shifting views on drug use.

One-third of states have Good Samaritan Laws designed to prevent drug overdose deaths. The laws grant limited immunity to people who seek help for someone who has overdosed. In addition, 17 states have expanded access to the overdose

antidote naloxone. The treatment, sold under the brand name Narcan, has been used for many years by paramedics and doctors in emergency rooms. It is administered by nasal spray. The medication blocks the ability of heroin or opioid painkillers to attach to brain cells. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy says it is encouraging police departments to carry Narcan.

Full story of state approach to drug use at

Heartburn drugs could cause B12 deficiency

Patients who use certain acid-suppressing drugs for heartburn over a period of two years or longer are more likely to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency than those who do not use them, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) and histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), are available by prescription and over-the-counter, under names such as Prilosec and Nexium. They are designed to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, as well as other acid-related conditions.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, looked at the medical records of 25,956 adults who received vitamin B12 deficiency diagnoses between 1997 and 2011, comparing them with 184,199 patients without B12 deficiencies.

They found patients who took PPIs for more than two years were 65% more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency and when patients were given higher doses of the PPIs, the deficiency was even more prevalent.  The risk of deficiency was not has high in  patients who used  H2 blockers long-term: 4.2%, compared with 3.2% of nonusers.

But with both drug types, researchers say they believe this happens because these medications suppress the production of gastric acid, which keeps the body from absorbing vitamin B12.

Full story of B12 and heartburn medication at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Many States Lack Effective Strategies Against Prescription Drug Abuse: Report

A new report finds many states do not have effective strategies in place to fight prescription drug abuse, CNN reports. The report found 28 states and Washington, D.C. scored six or less out of 10 possible indicators of promising strategies.

Only New Mexico and Vermont scored 10 out of 10, according to the report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic.” The report was written by the nonprofit group Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

The number of drug overdose deaths, a majority of them from prescription drugs, doubled in 29 states since 1999, the report notes. Deaths related to prescription drugs now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined. The report also found drug overdose deaths now outnumber motor-vehicle deaths in 29 states.

The report evaluated strategies such as prescription drug monitoring programs, which help doctors and pharmacists identify patients who are “doctor shopping” for prescriptions. The report found while 49 of 50 states have such programs, only 16 require medical providers to use them.

Full story of prescription drug abuse at

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education