Benzo Update 02.25.18

Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. Unlike opioid prescribing, which peaked in 2012 and has decreased nearly 20 percent since then, benzodiazepine prescribing continues to rise. The risk of overdose death goes up nearly fourfold when benzodiazepines are combined with opioids, yet rates of co-prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013. Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased more than sevenfold between 1999 and 2015.

Anna Lembke, M.D., is associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, and author of “Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).

You can read the full article here.


Gabapentin Misuse and Abuse

Last December, Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy began reporting sales of gabapentin prescriptions in its regular monitoring of controlled substances. The drug, which is not an opioid nor designated a controlled substance by federal authorities, is used to treat nerve pain. But the board found that it was the most prescribed medication on its list that month, surpassing oxycodone by more than 9 million doses. In February, the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network issued an alert regarding increasing misuse across the state.

A literature review published in 2016 in the journal Addiction found about a fifth of those who abuse opiates misuse gabapentin. A separate 2015 study of adults in Appalachian Kentucky who abused opiates found 15 percent of participants also misused gabapentin in the past six months “to get high.”

In the same year, the drug was involved in 109 overdose deaths in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

Read the article.

Now slowly focus on the following sentences:

Gabapentin can enhance the euphoria caused by an opioid and stave off drug withdrawals. In addition, it can bypass the blocking effects of medications used for addiction treatment, enabling patients to get high while in recovery.

ADHD Prescriptions Skyrocket Among Young Women

The percentage of women who filled a prescription for an ADHD medication rose from 0.9% in 2003 to 4.0% in 2015 ― an increase of 344%, the researchers report.

ADHD prescriptions increased for all subgroups of female patients aged 15 years to 44 years (analyzed in 5-year increments), and in all geographic regions of the country. The largest increase in ADHD prescriptions occurred among women aged 25 to 29 years (700% increase), followed by women aged 30 to 34 (560% increase).

WHY???  Read the Medscape article (and comments) here and the MMWR report at this link.



Tom Petty’s COD Lesson for Underwriters

Good article from The Dose Makes the Poison blog.  You can read the entire article here.

I found the following excerpt fascinating.  The bold lines are my highlights.

From a general forensic toxicology standpoint, the real takeaway is that this is a dangerous combination of substances to use concurrently. He was consuming two powerful opioid and two potent benzodiazepines which when used together can create synergistic effects and exaggerated central nervous system depression. Add that situation to an already compromised cardiovascular and respiratory system, and it’s a recipe for disaster.  For my own information, I would love to see the full toxicology report with quantitative measures of drug, etc. How much fentanyl was present? How much temazepam and alprazolam were detected? Not that any of that really matters though.

With the detection of acetylfentanyl and despropionylfentanyl, it seems as if Tom Petty was supplementing his pharmaceutical medications with illicitly manufactured substances. Acetylfentanyl is not a pharmaceutical medication anywhere in the world and is only found as a designer opioid/analog meant to skirt the controlled substances act in the USA. Fentanyl does not metabolize to acetylfentanyl. As despropionylfentanyl is a precursor/intermediate used in the illicit (non-pharmaceutical) synthesis of fentanyl, it generally used as a marker for exposure to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The presence of this substance has also been associated with the use of various fentanyl analogs including acetylfentanyl, acrylfentanyl, and furanylfentanyl. No one knows if the use of illicit opioid was intentional or not. Remember the situation surrounding Prince’s death. Multiple pills were found in his residence that looked like pharmaceutical hydrocodone/acetaminophen but turned out to be counterfeit tablets containing fentanyl and the opioid research chemical U-47700.

As a conclusion, I’ll say, please do not mix depressant drugs. Do not mix opioids with benzodiazepines. Do not mix either of them with ethanol. Stay safe, folks.

Pay attention to those medications.

Didn’t I mention this previously when writing about Heath Ledger’s death?

PulmCrit- Phenobarbital monotherapy for alcohol withdrawal: Reloaded

It has been said that alcoholics exist to teach physicians humility. These patients are quite complicated, often suffering from several problems simultaneously (e.g., withdrawal, nutritional deficiencies, trauma, infection, psychiatric problems). Arguably the most important task when treating alcohol withdrawal is exclusion of alternative or superimposed problems. Phenobarbital obviously cannot be expected to solve every problem that may exist in an alcoholic patient.

Phenobarbital does, however, appear to be a uniquely effective and safe treatment for alcohol withdrawal (including withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens). Several reasons for the superiority of phenobarbital are listed above. Preliminary evidence suggests that these do indeed translate into meaningful clinical benefit (e.g. faster recovery, fewer complications).

Read the entire post here.

The Battleground of Prime Time Media, Disease, and Death

I first noticed this phenomenon while watching the world news on a weekday after work. It was a commercial for a new diabetes medicine that showed overweight people dancing at a barbecue, cooking and enjoying life. How different this was from my day in the wound clinic, where I saw patient after patient with obesity, diabetes, and non-healing wounds, as well as other dire medical complications.

Read the full article here.