February 22nd, 2012
02:15 PM ET
Whenever I hand a prescription for pain pills to a patient, I tell them, “Remember not to drink any alcohol when taking these medications.”
For years, we in the medical community thought that simple message was getting through. It turns out we were wrong.
Every 19 minutes someone dies because of misuse of prescription medications. Sometimes it is because they take too much. Many times it is because they forget or ignore the warning their doctor gave about combining the medications with alcohol. And tens of thousands of people die every year as a result.
As much attention as we pay to illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, the truth is prescription medications kill more people in this country than those illicit drugs combined. Perhaps it is a perception issue: “It came from a pharmacy, therefore, it must be safe.”
They certainly can be safe, but they can also be incredibly addictive, with more than 1.9 million Americans hooked on prescription pain medications alone.
January 12th, 2012
05:29 PM ET
If you like to drink but want to stop and don't seem to have to willpower to do so, it may be because chemicals in your brain are telling you to order another pint, new research suggests.
It's been long thought that alcohol triggers the release of naturally occurring opioids in the brain's reward centers, but research has documented how this process works only in animals. A new study in the journal Science Translational Medicine offers insights into why alcohol can be so addictive in humans.
January 10th, 2012
02:03 PM ET
Binge drinking is a bigger problem in the United States than previously thought. Adults binge drink more frequently and consume more drinks when they do, according to the CDC.
Ursula Bauer, Director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, announced the findings during a telebriefing Tuesday. “Excessive alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, accounts for 80,000 deaths in the U.S. each year,” she said, “making it the third leading preventable cause of death.” Those deaths are typically the result of motor vehicle crashes or violence against others while under the influence.
January 9th, 2012
03:19 PM ET
Smokers trying to quit with the help of nicotine replacement therapies – nicotine patches, gums and lozenges - are just as likely to relapse after an initial six-month period as those who go cold turkey, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Tobacco Control.
Past studies have proven that nicotine medications are effective in helping smokers get past the physical withdrawal period when most relapse, something the study authors do not dispute. Some describe nicotine replacement therapies as rockets, launching former smokers beyond withdrawal and into orbit, where they have the same chances of kicking the habit as any other former smoker.
December 20th, 2011
06:31 PM ET
Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain are only a handful of well-known musicians who died at the age of 27.
Were these deaths at age 27 just a freaky coincidence or something more? A group of scientists decided to investigate.
The results of their study were published in the BMJ. The researchers found the deaths have nothing to do with age, but more to do with fame. After all, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is one that is often associated with unhealthy influences like booze and drugs.
Every year around Christmas time, the BMJ publishes various quirky studies, but the articles have been through the journal's peer review process. The author, Adrian Barnett, said he conducted the study and that the data had been validated during the review process.
November 14th, 2011
06:46 PM ET
Tracey Helton Mitchell lives outside San Francisco where she and her husband are raising three children. Tracey is an addiction specialist who helps people dealing with dependency and mental health issues find meaningful employment. In her free time, she enjoys writing and exploring the Bay Area. Tracey hopes by telling her story, she can give hope to others dealing with addiction.
From the very beginning, I always felt like there was something about different about me. There was a space inside my consciousness that was restless.
Everything about my birth and my childhood implied a happy future. I was born of two parents into a family that wanted me. I lived in a comfortable house in a small, close-knit community. While I was found to be extremely “gifted” at an early age, I found that to be a burden. I could never stop judging myself, every detail. I was the kid always in search of attention from the teacher, not the fellow students. I was confident in my abilities but there was a dissonance. No matter what I did, what I said, where I went - I was never comfortable with the shell I carried called myself.
November 14th, 2011
06:30 PM ET
The "Just Say No" generation was often told by parents and teachers that intelligent people didn't use drugs. Turns out, the adults may have been wrong.
A new British study finds children with high IQs are more likely to use drugs as adults than people who score low on IQ tests as children. The data come from the 1970 British Cohort Study, which has been following thousands of people over decades. The kids' IQs were tested at the ages of 5, 10 and 16. The study also asked about drug use and looked at education and other socioeconomic factors. Then when participants turned 30, they were asked whether they had used drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the past year.
November 3rd, 2011
10:56 AM ET
The popular quit-smoking drug Chantix may increase the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts in some patients, says a new report.
Researchers looked at more than 3,000 reports of "neuropsychiatric adverse events" - unexpected problems that result in risk or harm to the patient -relating to smoking cessation drugs, and found that more than 90% of the reports were associated with Chantix use.
"We compared people who took nicotine replacement therapy, Zyban and Chantix," said Dr. Curt Furberg, a study author, and professor of public health sciences at Wake Forrest Baptist Medical Center. "There was an increase in suicides even with nicotine replacement therapies, but Chantix was 8-10 times worse."
November 1st, 2011
03:47 PM ET
Inappropriately used prescription pain medications kill 15,000 people in the United States each year, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're in the midst of an epidemic," says CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "Narcotics prescribed by physicians kill 40 people per day."
Deaths due to prescription painkiller overdoses now exceed the number of heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined, says Frieden, who is joining Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the nation's drug czar, to raise awareness about how prescription drug abuse deaths have tripled since 1999.
According to the data released Tuesday, 1 in 20 or 12 million Americans age 12 and older has misused prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycotin), methadone or hydrocodone (Vicodin) and middle-aged adults have the highest overdose rates.
September 8th, 2011
06:10 PM ET
More than 22 million Americans age 12 and older - nearly 9% of the U.S. population - use illegal drugs, according to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The overall rate of drug use is only slightly higher than the 2009 study but nearly a percentage point above the 2008 survey.
“I am encouraged there were no significant increases in drug use over the past year,” Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. director of national drug control policy, said in a statement. “However, today’s survey also shows that drug use in America remains at unacceptable levels.”
Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants and some prescription drugs used for non-medical purposes were counted in the survey. Marijuana was the most commonly used drug, with more than 17 million users in 2010, 3 million more than in the 2007 survey.
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.