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February 11th, 2014
06:04 PM ET

Federal officials support use of naloxone

With heroin use up nearly 80% since 2007, the nation's "Drug Czar," Gil Kerlikowske, is highlighting the benefits of an old, but effective drug called naloxone which can reverse an overdose.

While heroin overdoses account for only a small part of the opioid overdose epidemic, they are a leading cause of death in the United States, killing 100 people every day, Kerlikowske said in a White House press conference Tuesday.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem," Kerlikowske said, pointing out several key things that help to reduce overdose numbers, including the use of naloxone.

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses from heroin and opioid prescription pain killers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.  Opioids bind to the receptors in the brain and spinal cord, causing the body to slow down until it stops breathing.  When an addict takes naloxone, it can reverse this process, freeing up the receptors.

"Naloxone has very few side effects and can be safely administered in many different settings, so there is some hope for its expanded use," said Kerlikowske.
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Heartburn drugs could cause B12 deficiency
December 11th, 2013
11:00 AM ET

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.

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CDC: 6% of teens take psychotropic drugs
December 4th, 2013
09:03 AM ET

CDC: 6% of teens take psychotropic drugs

The debate around adolescents and psychotropic drug use may be quieted - ever so slightly - by new data.

More than 6% of adolescents reported using psychotropic medications during the past month, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Six percent is pretty much what I would expect for the prescription of psychotropic medications based on what we know about new disorders and how prevalent they would be among adolescents," said Bruce Jonas, a mental health epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, who compiled the data.

Psychotropic medications are used to alter the mood, behavior or overall functioning of persons with certain mental health conditions. FULL POST


Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study
October 16th, 2013
12:21 PM ET

Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study

Anyone who's ever eaten an Oreo knows how difficult it can be to eat just one.

Scientists have long suspected that our brains crave junk food in the same way they crave other pleasurable substances, such as illegal drugs. Previous studies in rodents and in humans have shown the same area of the brain that lights up on scans when people use drugs, also shows increased activity when study participants consume, or even look at, high fat, high sugar foods like ice cream or bacon.

Some scientists believe certain foods trigger the brain to signal for more, similar to the way addictive drugs prompt cravings; if we don't fulfill the brain's request, the body could produce a physical response (like caffeine headaches) similar to withdrawal symptoms.

New research from undergraduate students at Connecticut College adds to the growing evidence suggesting that food can be addictive. The students were interested in understanding how the availability of junk food in low-income areas has contributed to America's obesity epidemic.

“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat, high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” study designer and neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said in a statement.
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Women's prescription overdose deaths skyrocket
July 2nd, 2013
03:55 PM ET

Women's prescription overdose deaths skyrocket

Every day, 42 women die from a drug overdose - and nearly half of those overdoses are from prescription painkillers.

In fact, according to newly released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women dying from prescription drug overdoses has increased by more than 400% since 1999 - nearly double the 265% increase of deaths in men.

"In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from prescription painkillers, four times as many died from cocaine and heroin combined," says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. FULL POST


Don't judge that generic pill by its color
December 31st, 2012
04:05 PM ET

Don't judge that generic pill by its color

It's not the color, but what's inside that counts when it comes to medication. However, doctors suspect that's not exactly how patients see it.

According to a study published Monday in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine, changes in pill color significantly increase the odds that a patient will fail to take their medication as prescribed by their doctor.

First, the basics

Generic drugs are approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Generic Drugs.  These off-brand alternatives must be “bioequivalent” to the brand-name version, meaning they must be identical in terms of dosage form, strength, route of administration, quality, intended use, and clinical efficacy. But the FDA does not require that the two versions look alike. FULL POST


Concerns about generic painkillers increase
December 14th, 2012
11:21 AM ET

Concerns about generic painkillers increase

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently sent an alert to law enforcement, particularly along the Canadian border, warning them that Canada had approved non-abuse resistant generic versions of oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and about 40 other painkillers.

"ONDCP expects companies will begin offering these generics without the abuse-resistant features in Canadian pharmacies within the next month," according to the alert.

The letter warned of the potential for these generics to show up here in the United States, where they are no longer available.

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This is your brain on smoking
November 28th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

This is your brain on smoking

That cigarette may be doing more damage than meets the eye. If you’ve been smoking for an extended period of time, you’re likely familiar with at least some – if not all – of the bodily symptoms associated with smoking, including but certainly not limited to: Cravings, coughing, shortness of breath and changes to teeth, hair and skin. Coronary heart disease and/or lung cancer might not be far behind.

But a new study published in the journal Age & Ageing concludes that smoking can damage your mind, too. A consistent association was observed between smoking and lower cognitive functioning, including memory.

The bottom line: Smoking and long-term high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline. FULL POST

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Filed under: Addiction • Alzheimer's • Brain • Cancer • Heart • Longevity • Smoking • Stroke

November 28th, 2012
09:57 AM ET

Gymnastics and acrobatics help performer rise above addiction

Editor's Note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship - they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed.  This week we introduce you to Joe Putignano, the "Crystal Man" in Cirque du Soleil's touring show "Totem."  He shares his story of how he was a rising gymnast with Olympic potential, who came crashing down into a life of alcohol, cocaine and heroin addiction.   After two life-threatening overdoses, he finally got clean, and says it was gymnastics that pulled him back to life.  

Spotlights drench over me in a warm glow, and in this illumination I can no longer hide my past from the world - any insecurities will be exposed to an audience of thousands.  In fear I hold my breath, binding myself to the band’s soft prelude, slowly unraveling myself from a tight spinning ball.  Evolutio means “unrolling” in Latin and is the theme of our Cirque du Soleil show Totem.  Evolution is the common thread in my life, from athlete to drug addict to performer.

The voice of my horrific past sings to me over the live music, and my memories of my life with heroin bleed into my performance.  I am reminded of the fine-tipped syringe I held in my hand with the small words printed “Use once and destroy.”  I feel a strong connection to that statement, envious of those who can use once, put it down, and not be destroyed by it. FULL POST


FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies
The FDA is aiming to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and the risk they pose to consumer health.
September 28th, 2012
12:16 PM ET

FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies

Buyers beware when it comes to buying medicine online, the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers.  On Friday, the agency launched "BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy," a national campaign to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and their potential risk to consumer health.

“Buying medicines from rogue online pharmacies can be risky because they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, not approved by FDA, or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.  “Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products.  If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are.  FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks.”

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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