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Child medication measurements confuse parents
July 14th, 2014
11:03 AM ET

Child medication measurements confuse parents

Do you know the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons?

Many parents don’t, according to a study published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found more than 10,000 calls to the poison center each year are due to liquid medication dosage errors.

The study says part of the reason parents may be confused is because a range of measurement units such as teaspoons, tablespoons and milliliters are often used interchangeably on labels for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Parents who used the teaspoon and tablespoon dosage were much more likely to use kitchen spoons to measure their child’s medication and were twice as likely to make an error in medication, according to the study. Parents who measured their child’s medication in milliliters were much less likely to make a dosage mistake.

About 40% of parents in the study incorrectly measured the dose their doctor prescribed.
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How reliable is the drug info you find online?
June 26th, 2014
08:04 AM ET

How reliable is the drug info you find online?

When people want to learn more about a new drug warning, they turn to the internet - that’s no surprise. But is the information they find there accurate and up-to-date? Not always, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

“Despite debates over its credibility, Wikipedia is reportedly the most frequently consulted online health care resource globally,” the authors write. “Wikipedia pages typically appear among the top few Google search results and are among the references most likely to be checked by internet users.”

Wikipedia, along with Google and WebMD, is where more than half of all Americans turn to for health information, according to the report.

Researchers found that when the FDA issues a drug safety warning, Google searches about that drug increase 82% on average in the following week. Wikipedia pages about the drug see a 175% increase in views on the day of the announcement.

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Xanax-related ER visits double in 6 years
May 22nd, 2014
07:32 AM ET

Xanax-related ER visits double in 6 years

Alprazolam, the prescription sedative more commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is being implicated in a spiraling number of emergency room visits, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Over the past few years, the number of ER visits associated with misuse of the drug more than doubled. In 2005, the number of patient cases involving Xanax was 57,419, and by 2011 (the last year for which there is data), there were 123,744.

"We have been clamping down on opiates (prescription painkillers) but Xanax is becoming a fast-riser in the game," said Dr. Howard Mell, an emergency room physician based in Cleveland, Ohio.

"It's not even a little surprising," he said of the new figures. "I wish it was."
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Drug-resistant bacteria
March 5th, 2014
11:02 AM ET

CDC: Hospitals contributing to rise of superbugs

Health officials have long been warning us about the overuse of antibiotics and the rise of drug-resistant "superbugs." Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shining a light on how hospitals are contributing to the problem.

"Prescribing (antibiotics) varies widely among hospitals," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, an infectious disease expert, said in a press conference Tuesday. "Practices that are not optimal are putting patients at unnecessary risk of future drug-resistant infections, allergic reactions and intestinal infections that can be deadly."
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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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More students think marijuana is OK
More than a third of high school seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the last year.
December 18th, 2013
12:02 AM ET

More students think marijuana is OK

Most teens may be "Above the Influence" when it comes to cocaine and cigarettes, but marijuana use is growing among students.

Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors do not see regular marijuana use as harmful to their health, according to this year's Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.

Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.
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Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart
December 10th, 2013
11:03 AM ET

Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death world-wide. About half of all long-term smokers will die because of their addiction. But the good news is that nearly 70% of current smokers want to quit, says the CDC.

And using an effective treatment to help kick the habit can almost double or triple one's chance of success. Replacement therapies like the nicotine patch or gum, or medications like the antidepressant buproprion (sold as Wellbutrin or Zyban) and varenicline (commonly known as Chantix), can help reduce one's cravings to smoke and deal with withdrawal symptoms.

Headlines in recent years have questioned the cardiovascular risks of these drugs. But new research says that these drugs carry little risk of heart attack or stroke. FULL POST


Report: States failing to curb prescription abuse
October 7th, 2013
12:44 PM ET

Report: States failing to curb prescription abuse

Since 1999, sales of prescription painkillers in the United States have quadrupled. So have the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Prescription drug misuse is now responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

Despite these shocking statistics, a new report from Trust for America's Health finds many states are lacking effective strategies to curb prescription drug abuse.

The report, titled "Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic," shows more than half the states scored a six or less on the advocacy organization's scale, which assesses the ways states are trying to combat prescription drug abuse. Only two states, New Mexico and Vermont, scored 10 out of 10.

"In the past two decades we've seen many advances in the development of new prescription drugs, which have been a miracle for many," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "But we've also seen a corresponding rise in misuse, and the consequences can be dire."
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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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Your thoughts: Treating PTSD with Ecstasy
Readers sounded off about the study of the effects of MDMA, the chemical name for pure Ecstasy, on those with PTSD.
December 4th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Your thoughts: Treating PTSD with Ecstasy

CNN recently published a three-day series on the experimental use of the drug Ecstasy as part of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Readers had a lot to say in response to scientists who are studying the effects of MDMA, the chemical name for pure Ecstasy, on patients with PTSD.

Many readers said they were familiar with past research that’s been done on these drugs and questioned why they are still illegal.

Thom Burke
"I think the judicious use of many psychedelics can be very helpful in a lot of these cases. Sad how their use got derailed in the '60s because of culture wars.”

Pagan Champ
“100% agree Thom. The real problem is that politics and policy stand in the way of advancing science and medicine for chemicals that we've had at our disposal for nearly 100 years now.”

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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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