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Suicide Rate Among Middle-aged Americans Soars


Caroline Cassels

May 02, 2013

The suicide rate among middle-aged individuals in the United States has taken a major leap forward in the past decade, new research shows.

A report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that the suicide rate among men and women aged 35 to 64 years increased by 28% — 32% for women and 27% for men — between 1999 and 2010.

Increases in suicide rates were also especially high among non-Hispanic whites and American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The increases were geographically widespread and occurred in states with high, as well as average and low, suicide rates, the authors report.

Increases in suicide rates among males and females were also observed from suicides involving hanging/suffocation, poisoning, and firearms. Suicide rates for individuals aged 10 to 34 years and for those aged 65 years and older did not change significantly during this period.

“Suicide is a tragedy that is far too common. The stories we hear of those who are impacted by suicide are very difficult. This report highlights the need to expand our knowledge of risk factors so we can build on prevention programs that prevent suicide,” CDC director Thomas Friedan, MD, said in a release.

The findings were published May 2 in the CDC’s journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report’s key findings include the following:

  • Suicide rates among those aged 35 to 64 years increased 28% (32% for women, 27% for men).
  • The greatest increases in suicide rates were among people aged 50 to 54 years (48%) and 55 to 59 years (49%).
  • Among racial/ethnic groups, the greatest increases in suicide rates were among white non-Hispanics (40%) and American Indian and Alaska Natives (65%).
  • Suicide rates increased 23% or more across all 4 major regions of the United States.
  • Suicide rates increased 81% for hanging/suffocation, compared with 14% for use of firearms and 24% for poisoning.
  • Firearms and hanging/suffocation were the most common suicide mechanisms for middle-aged men. Poisoning and firearms were the most common mechanisms for middle-aged women.

According to the report’s authors, one possible contributing factor for the rise in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is the recent economic downturn. They point out that historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher suicide rates occurring during times of economic hardship.

In addition, the observed risk in intentional overdoses may be due to the increased availability of prescription opioids.

“These results highlight the need for suicide prevention strategies that address mental health issues and the stresses and challenges that middle-aged adults are likely to face. Such stresses include economic challenges, dual caregiver responsibilities, and potential health problems,” the authors write.

MMWR. Published May 2, 2013.

Increased Number Of Drug-Related Deaths Increased Between 1999- 2010







U.S. drug-related deaths, over time

U.S. drug-related deaths, over time Katie Peek


Drug Week:  Popular Science

In 2010, there were 80,000 drug and alcohol overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database. The database, maintained by the National Center for Health Statistics, keeps a tally of all the deaths listed on certificates nationwide. They’re classified by the ICD-10 medical coding reference system.Death reporting in the U.S. requires an underlying cause—the event or disease that lead to the death. This chart represents all those listed in the CDC database as “accidental poisoning,” “intentional self-poisoning,” “assault by drugs,” and “poisoning with undetermined intent.” In addition to the underlying cause, a death certificate has space for up to 20 additional causes. That’s where “cocaine” or “antidepressants” would show up. The subcategories are limited in their detail—many drugs are lumped together, like MDMA and caffeine, which are listed together as “psychostimulants.” And about a quarter of all overdose death certificates don’t have the toxicity test results listed at all, landing them in the “unspecified” stripe.

By adding all those sub-categories up, imperfect as they may be, it’s clear that the rate of reported overdoses the U.S. more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. About half of those additional deaths are in the pharmaceuticals category, which the CDC has written about before. Nearly three-quarters of the pharmaceuticals deaths are opioid analgesics—prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. And while cocaine, heroin and alcohol are all responsible for enough deaths to warrant their own stripes on the chart, many popular illegal drugs—including marijuana and LSD—are such a tiny blip as to be invisible.

A few caveats about the statistics: if a person had multiple drugs listed on their death certificate, they’re being counted twice here. Also, the database doesn’t include nonresidents—either undocumented immigrants or U.S. citizens living abroad.

Peer Pressure – Worse in Middle School


Peer Pressure to Smoke Greater in Middle School Than High School: Study

By  | April 29, 2013

Parents’ smoking behavior influences their teens’ decisions about cigarette use throughout high school, a new study suggests. Peer pressure to smoke is greater during middle school than high school, according to researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

The findings indicate smoking intervention programs designed to counteract peer pressure to smoke should be aimed at middle school students, instead of high school students, the researchers report in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The findings on peer pressure were surprising to the researchers,HealthDay reports. “We thought friends would have more influence on cigarette use during high school than junior high school,” said study author Yue Liao. “But what we found was friends have greater influence during junior high school than high school. We think the reason may be that friends’ cigarette use behavior may have a stronger influence on youth who start smoking at a younger age,” she noted in a press release. “During high school, cigarette use might represent the maintenance of behavior rather than a result of peer influence.”

The study included 1,000 teens who were first questioned in seventh grade. They were reassessed after six months, and then annually until they were in twelfth grade. They answered questions about how many of their close friends and parents smoked, and how many cigarettes they themselves had smoked in the past month. They saw a large decrease in friends’ influence from eighth to ninth grade.

Breathing Test Device Used to Detect 12 Controlled Substances


Swedish researchers have found a commercially available breathing test device can be used to detect 12 controlled substances, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, US News reports.

The device was tested on 47 people who had taken drugs in the previous 24 hours and were recovering at a drug addiction emergency clinic, the researchers report in the Journal of Breath Research. The test correctly detected drug use in 87 percent of cases, and was as accurate as blood and urine tests.

Currently, police do not have a simple way to test drivers for drugs when they are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), the article notes. Lead researcher Olof Beck of the Karolinska Institutet noted in a news release, “Considering the samples were taken 24 hours after the intake of drugs, we were surprised to find that there was still high detectability for most drugs.” Dr. Beck said police could use the test at the scene when DUI is suspected, and later confirm the findings with a blood test.

The researchers collected breath samples using a currently available breath test called SensAbues, which consists of a mouthpiece and micro-particle filter. When a person breathes into the mouthpiece, the device separates saliva and larger particles from the tiny particles that are measured. The micro-particles pass through and deposit onto a filter, which is sealed and stored. The particles are then analyzed using lab tests known as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.


Raise Taxes, Wyoming, I D.A.R.E. You


By Joe Schrank

Posted: 04/25/2013 4:14 pm

America has a long history of stubborn resistance to applying logic, science and just common sense to our intoxication problem. For more than 30 years the DARE program has been in 80 percent of school districts. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II and Obama have all had a “national DARE day” and yet, in 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher placed the DARE program in the category of “ineffective.” In 2003 the office went further and claimed it may even have a boomerang effect and increase drug use. As someone who sits many hours with each years new class of rehab kids, I have heard about the DARE program everything from “it was bullshit” to ‘it made me want to try what they were saying not to” even “I hated them because they kept saying what losers alcoholics were and my dad is an alcoholic.” Perhaps the most concerning thing I have heard was “the cop who taught it hit on me.” A decade after the proclamation from David Satcher, we still have the DARE program. It begs a 12 step culture cliché: when nothing changes, nothing changes.

At this point, we can safely accept that intoxication is part of the human condition, it has been since cavemen first fermented fruit and yet, year after year we try to give stern warnings to youth and expect that will do the trick that did nothing for the previous generation. So what does work?

There is growing evidence that taxation has a strong correlation to reducing the rates of use, underage, and binge drinking.

And when drinking goes down, so does: violence, vandalism, visits to the ER from uninsured, accidental pregnancy, and STD’s, the list goes on and on. It would make sense, since the data demonstrates that higher taxation works to try it, what is there to lose? While we all love the cute and cuddly (read: weird and creepy) DARE lion, why not use what is shown to work? More than likely, the alcohol lobby is at work here and they don’t want to see any tax hikes. They seem to know that if that were to happen, they would sell less of their product. The community would certainly benefit from more revenue and as an added bonus, people drink less and therefore cause less damage.

Many states have not raised taxes on alcohol in generations, the most egregious of these is Wyoming. Beer, the beverage of choice for the underage drinker and frat boy, is taxed .02/100 in Wyoming with the last tax raise in 1935. Think of it in these terms: Saturday night, 20 college kids and a keg of beer (15 gallons). Not hard to imagine something going wrong all of which is financed by the tax-payer because the state got .30/100 for that keg of beer. To be fair, Wyoming seems to have some decent programs for families and individuals plagued by alcoholism. They even have REACH high school, an innovative program to help youngsters in recovery. Governor Matt Mead seems to have a concern on the matter and sponsored many efforts to curb underage drinking and alcohol abuse. Curiously void from these efforts is what research says is the most effective; a tax hike. When asked about taxation in his state, Governor Matt Mead had this to say “Alcohol and substance abuse are serious problems across America including here in Wyoming. I believe we have come a long way in creating better prevention and treatment programs, but we should always look to improve. One area where I know we have room for growth is in programs for our youth. I support concepts that try to innovate and target teenagers. I will continue to look for collaborations to reduce alcohol abuse and underage drinking.”

I have a way to innovate governor, let’s ignore the alcohol lobby and raise taxes on beer in your state, with the revenue dedicated to treatment, recovery, and family services. Just for fun, let’s take all the kids at REACH high on a fun sober vacation. I’ll chaperone.

 — Joe Schrank

Party Drug Called “Benzo Fury” Presents Dangers, Rat Study Suggests



A party drug known as “Benzo Fury” can have dangerous consequences, a new study of rodents suggests. It has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects, Reuters reports. The drug is a synthetic, laboratory-designed substance.

Benzo Fury can be purchased online, and is popular in Britain and the United States, the article notes. Researchers at Britain’s University of Roehampton found the drug produced an effect on the brains of rats that was similar to hallucinogenic, addictive drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines. It may lead to high blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, the researchers said.

“It’s in the combination of these stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that the greatest danger lies,” said lead researcher Jolanta Opacka-Juffry. She presented her findings at the British Neuroscience Association conference in London. She added, “It’s possible that the reason these drugs are so popular is because they are seen as safer than their illegal counterparts,” so it is “important to challenge such assumptions.”

Heavy Drinking Throughout College Could Increase Heart Attack Risk, Study Finds


By  | April 24, 2013 |

Click Here For Link

Four years of heavy drinking between the ages of 18 and 25 could permanently increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, a new study suggests.

The study included 38 nonsmoking college students. Half did not drink, and half were binge drinkers, meaning they consumed five or more servings of alcohol in two hours, at least six times a month, for about four years, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The researchers from the University of Illinois used ultrasound imaging to examine blood vessels in the students’ arms when they were given the blood-vessel dilating drug nitroglycerin. They observed what happened when the arm’s blood flow was temporarily restricted, and then allowed to run freely.

The students who didn’t drink had blood vessels that were more elastic, and dilated more easily, compared with the vessels of binge drinkers. This could be an early indicator of blood vessel damage and heart disease, which could increase the future risk of heart problems, the researchers said.

“Regular binge drinking is one of the most serious public health problems confronting our college campuses, and drinking on college campuses has become more pervasive and destructive,” researcher Shane A. Phillips, PT, PhD, said in a news release. “Binge drinking is neurotoxic and our data support that there may be serious cardiovascular consequences in young adults.”

“It is important that young adults understand that binge drinking patterns are an extreme form of unhealthy or at-risk drinking and are associated with serious social and medical consequences,” added co-author Mariann Piano, PhD, RN. “Discoveries and advances in many different areas of medical science have cautioned against the notion that youth protects against the adverse effects of bad lifestyle behaviors or choices.”

The new study will appear in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

NIDA Researchers Suggest New Direction for Treating Addictions



Using optogenetics, essentially shining a light, on particular cells in the prefrontal cortex can reduce cocaine addiction in rats, according to a study published April 3 in Nature. The senior scientist was Antonello Bonci, M.D., scientific director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Our results can be immediately translated to clinical research settings with humans, and we are planning clinical trials to stimulate this brain region using noninvasive methods,” Bonci reported in a press statement. “By targeting a specific portion of the prefrontal cortex, our hope is to reduce compulsive cocaine-seeking and craving in patients.”

“This exciting study offers a new direction in research for the treatment of cocaine and possibly other addictions,” added NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D. “We already knew, mainly from human brain imaging studies, that deficits in the prefrontal cortex are involved in drug addiction. Now that we have learned how fundamental these deficits are, we feel more confident than ever about the therapeutic promise of targeting that part of the brain.”

Bonci and his colleagues gave cocaine to two groups of rats—those addicted to cocaine and those not addicted to cocaine—then compared the neuron-firing patterns in the prefrontal cortex in both groups. They found less firing in the deep-layer pyramidal neurons of the prefrontal cortex in the addicted rats than in the nonaddicted rats, implying that such sluggish firing might be critical for cocaine addiction. They then used optogenetics to stimulate the underperforming pyramidal neurons in the addicted rats and found that it reduced cocaine-seeking behavior. “Thus, targeted stimulation of the prefrontal cortex could serve as a promising therapy for treating compulsive drug use,” the researchers concluded.

Researcher Uses Virtual Reality to Reduce Addiction Cravings


Virtual reality 4-22-13

A Duke University researcher is studying whether virtual reality can be used to reduce cravings in people who are addicted. The goal is to help them develop coping strategies that they can use in the real world, Popular Science reports.

A person using virtual reality for addiction treatment is hooked up to a simulator, and enters a virtual environment with one of their triggers, such as a crack pipe or bottle of alcohol. Someone in the scene offers them their drug of choice. Researchers slowly add cues to the virtual environment, or change the situation, based on the patient’s history.

A voice tells the person to put down the joystick and look around the room without speaking, to allow their craving to dissipate. The voice asks them to rate their cravings periodically.

The research is spearheaded by Zach Rosenthal, who receives funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Department of Defense. He uses virtual reality to trigger a reaction, and then teaches patients to cope with it. The method is called cue reactivity, which has long been used for treating phobias.

Dr. Rosenthal believes virtual reality is more effective than showing someone a real-life trigger, such as a lighter or empty bottle, in a lab setting. His hope is that creating a virtual world that is similar to the patients’ environment will help them transfer the lessons to the real world.

Rosenthal has been using virtual reality to treat substance abuse in veterans. The soldiers have post-traumatic stress syndrome. The program trains veterans’ minds not to respond to cravings when they are faced with temptations such as alcohol or drugs. Veterans participating in the research receive cellphone calls several times daily that transmit a tone to remind them about the steps they have learned to deal with their cravings.