Drug abuse rising among women

Prescription painkiller abuse is achieving gender equity.

For many years, men accounted for more cases of drug addiction and most of the overdoses. But that is changing rapidly, and health officials maintain the public and the medical community need to adjust mindsets and practices quickly.

The signs certainly have been there for a while, from the rising number of babies born with drug dependencies to more women arrested on drug charges. But the Center for Disease Control and Prevention added an exclamation point with a study released last week.

Between 1999 and 2010, overdose deaths among women increased 400 percent, much faster than the pace among men. Now about 40 percent of those who die from drug overdoses are women, and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are most often involved.

Overdose deaths are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. The CDC estimates that for each of 6,600 women who died of overdoses in 2010, another 30 went to an emergency room for painkiller misuse or abuse.

Throw out another assumption, because this is not just a growing problem with “young” women. The study shows dramatic increases among women in the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups.

The study also reminds us that prescription drug abuse is a different problem, and battling it requires different strategies.

The “just say no” campaigns of the past were aimed at street drugs offered to teens in a social or recreational setting. But many of today’s victims get their introduction to these powerful painkillers through a legitimate medical prescription.

The CDC also points out that women:

ν May become dependent on painkillers more quickly than men.

ν Are more likely to have chronic pain and therefore more likely to be prescribed painkillers — perhaps for longer and with higher doses.

ν May be more likely to engage in “doctor shopping.”

That means doctors and pharmacists need to be on the lookout for signs of abuse and much more careful about what they prescribe and distribute. To that end, Marshall University’s medical and pharmacy schools both have initiated programs to better educate future health care providers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

States need to implement better tracking of prescription sales, and West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky are all working on that. State and federal law enforcement also must continue to crack down on pills diverted to the black market and monitor the sheer volume of product distributed.

For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently levied multi-million dollar fines in an investigation of unprecedented shipments of oxycodone and other controlled drugs in Florida.

But most importantly, women of all ages and their families need to become more educated about the medications they are taking and the dangers of misuse or abuse. That means considering non-prescription options for pain, following instructions on mixing medications, disposing of unused prescriptions properly and not sharing prescriptions.

— From the Huntington




Consumer protection by AG needed fixing

Too often, what politicians really have in mind when they set up “consumer protection” operations is protecting their tenure in office.

Name identification is one of the foundations of successful politics. The more voters see a candidate’s name, the more likely they are to cast ballots for him, assuming there is no scandal attached to him.

And if they connect the name with “consumer protection,” so much the better.

For many years, it worked for former Attorney General Darrell McGraw. He set up “consumer protection advocates” in Charleston and at five branch offices throughout the state. There were 11 advocates, and they went to libraries, senior centers, county fairs and other places where they could warn anyone who would listen about various scams as well as potential pitfalls linked to perfectly legal businesses.

And while the advocates were at it, they handed out trinkets such as key chains and refrigerator magnets — all reminding people that McGraw was watching out for them.

Another aspect of McGraw’s operation was participation in “consumer protection” lawsuits. The system was to hire outside attorneys — sometimes lawyers who had contributed to McGraw’s re-election campaign — to handle the suits. When they won, the attorneys raked in fat fees and McGraw’s office collected millions of dollars on behalf of West Virginians.

That money should have gone to the state treasury, of course. But McGraw’s office kept it, often doling the money out to worthy causes and making him even more popular with voters.

Finally, last fall, voters had had enough of McGraw’s self-serving shenanigans. They kicked him out, replacing him with Patrick Morrisey.

Among Morrisey’s first steps was to reform the system of hiring outside attorneys and to agree that money collected through lawsuits should go to the state treasury.

Then he tackled the “advocate” system. He may well do away with it.

Some form of consumer protection outreach may be appropriate, but not the way McGraw did it, using state-paid personnel as a virtual public relations firm.

Morrisey is right to be reconsidering how the attorney general protects consumers. A more effective system, with safeguarding West Virginians as its first priority, should be devised.


— From the The Intelligencer/

Wheeling News-Register



ATV safety is improving

West Virginia had a major problem a few years ago with all-terrain vehicles, leading the nation in ATV deaths among children 18 and younger.

From 1999 to 2006, ATV collisions cost 250 people their lives. This was unacceptable and the state took action, which paid off.

While federal restrictions on children riding adult-sized vehicles as drivers or as passengers helped, two things made ATV riding in West Virginia safer.

The first was construction of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, which began in 2000.

The trails now provide more than 500 miles of back roads throughout Southern West Virginia, which allow riders to use ATVs for recreation safely in an environment that does not put them up against automobiles, trucks and tractor-trailers.

Not only do the trails provide a safe place for families in Southern West Virginia to enjoy their ATVs, but the trails have attracted visitors from around the nation.

The bigger factor may be the requirement, enacted in 2007, that no one under 18 may operate an ATV without a certificate of completion of a safety course from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Although figures are not available, West Virginia has since seen a dramatic improvement in ATV safety, especially among children, Jeffrey Lusk, director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, told the Gazette.

–From the Charleston Daily Mail


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