A bill that would allow prescription-drug addicted patients to sue the doctors who prescribed their meds met with overwhelming opposition yesterday during a Nevada legislative hearing. The bill, SB-75, was introduced by Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), in response to the “painkiller epidemic” sweeping the nation. But doctors and pain patients found so much to complain about in the proposed bill that opposition testifiers had to be asked to keep their remarks short to accommodate them all. "This bill ties the hands of physicians and takes away the rights of patients to choose which risk to assume while seeking treatment for their diseases," said testifier David Johnson, a Las Vegas physician, "Yes, some drugs may be addictive, but that may be the less important issue when fighting the disease or symptom." He also pointed out that potentially addictive medicines are often the only way to fight the symptoms of agonizing terminal illnesses such as cancer. "Everything in medicine has a risk," he said, "Most often the good effects outweigh the bad, but we don't know which patient will have a bad side effect."
A Las Vegas pain management specialist even brought one of his patients along to the hearing—a woman suffering from a severe disfigurement, who has been on painkillers for 15-years. "Without Methadone her life would be a living hell," said Dr. James Marx. "I can't imagine anyone with expertise in chronic pain management was consulted in the drafting of this bill." The bill also sought to target Nevada’s 12-year-old medical marijuana program, by proposing MMH patients be able to sue their clinics if they become “addicted to marijuana.”
"Would you propose a law where slot machine manufacturers and casinos are liable for the financial loss and gambling addictions of their visitors?" asked one physician who opposed the bill, "or the bartenders and liquor manufacturers for DUI's and alcoholism addictions by their patrons?" After the controversial hearing, Sen. Segerblom told the Associated Press that he didn’t believe that prescription painkillers were as necessary as the doctors claimed, saying: "I know we lived without them before so I'm skeptical these are the only ways to treat these diseases.” Historians believe that the painkilling properties of opium were first harnessed as far back as 3500 BCE.
Venezuelans won't be able to pour one out over the death of President Hugo Chavez because the sale and consumption of alcohol has been banned nationwide for a week. The Venezuela Interior Ministry will enforce the dry mourning period, along with a ban on carrying weapons, until March 12. Instead, throngs of Chavez loyalists may pass the time weeping or chanting over his flag-draped casket at a funeral service open to the public. “After Jesus Christ, there's Hugo Chavez,” says a sober mourner who says her family lived in poverty before his reign. “Before him, the government didn't care about us... Now children have everything.” This is not the first time a country has implemented a state-mandated dry spell after the passing of a leader. After Kim Jong-il's death last year, North Korea implemented a 100-day mourning period in which citizens were to abstain from "pleasurable" activities, including drinking alcohol. One North Korean officer accused of drinking was allegedly “forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and 'obliterated.'” No word on what kind of punishment the Venezuelan government has planned for those who break the ban.
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and is notoriously difficult to treat, but a team of scientists believe they have found a breakthrough solution. The scientists have developed a technique by which they insert a "brain pacemaker" electrode deep inside brain regions that promote appetite and lift mood. The technique was tested on six women between the ages of 24 to 57 at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto, all of whom were considered high risk, and had been unsuccessful with previous treatments. Researchers say nine months after the brain implant surgery, half of the patients had experienced their longest period of weight gain since they developed anorexia. None had lost weight, and almost all of the women said they felt significantly better. Two patients were even able to successfully finish an inpatient eating disorder treatment program for the first time. Researchers say that the results, published in the journal The Lancet, “give hope to patients with especially pernicious forms of the disorder and their families.”
Anorexia has been traditionally difficult to treat, because it usually sets in during adolescence when the brain is still developing. The disease has a staggering 20% mortality rate, and only 30 to 40% of patients fully recover. "There is an urgent need for additional therapies to help those suffering from severe anorexia," says Dr. Blake Woodside, one of the researchers and the medical director of Canada’s largest eating disorders program at Toronto General Hospital. “Any treatment that could potentially change the natural course of this illness is not just offering hope but saving the lives for those that suffer from the extreme form of this condition." Experts are hopeful that similar brain implant treatments might be successful in treating other mental illnesses as well. "We are truly ushering in a new of era of understanding of the brain and the role it can play in certain neurological disorders," says Dr. Andres Lozano, a neurosurgeon and one of the researchers in the study. "By pinpointing and correcting the precise circuits in the brain associated with the symptoms of some of these conditions, we are finding additional options to treat these illnesses."
The International Tennis Federation is already known for having one of the most comprehensive drug-testing programs in sports, but they are raising the stakes even further by introducing biological passports for all players this year. Identical to those already required in cycling and athletics, the biological passport measures changes in blood profile and can be used to detect doping. The new regulation will ultimately increase the amount of testing done throughout the year, particularly during the off-season. The ITF has confirmed that all players competing on official women's and world tours, ITF events and any of the four Grand Slams will be required to have a passport. “The players have been clear that they support increased investment in anti-doping and we feel that this is the most effective way to show the world that tennis is a clean sport,” says Brad Drewett, president of the Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP). Since Lance Armstrong's admission of doping in January, many prominent tennis pros like Roger Federer and Andy Murray have called for more stringent drug testing, even though the sport has been relatively free of high-profile doping cases. Czech player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was banned for six months last year after testing positive for the stimulant sibutramine, but the ITF accepted her explanation that she consumed the substance unknowingly after taking diet pills. In 2010, American player Wayne Odesnik was suspended for a year after Australian customs found the banned substance human growth hormone in his luggage.
The number of recorded crack cocaine and heroin users has fallen below 300,000 for the first time in England, according to a report from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA). The number of people injecting drugs has also dropped from 129,977 in 2005/6 to 93,401 in 2010/11. The report states that the nation's comprehensive treatment systems are responsible for the decrease and stresses that strong leadership will be needed to maintain the downward trend. "One of the main threats is complacency—assuming that drug users will continue to have rapid access to evidence-based treatment, come what may," says the report, "In this case, we need to remember the situation before 2001 and be determined that we don't allow it to slip backwards." Paul Hayes, chief executive of the NTA, says that the use of dangerous drugs by those under 35 "isn't just falling, it's plummeting,” but that the proportion of those over 35 being treated for drug use is on the rise, and this presents a different set of challenges. "The drug population is aging. We have very few people in their teens and twenties using heroin and crack, and more in treatment in their 40's and 50's who are frailer, more ill, and more difficult to turn around in the system," he says. The decline in drug use has prevented an estimated 4.9 million crimes a year, including robbery, shoplifting, and burglary. Hayes says local authorities are well-placed to bring together the different support networks needed by drug users, but adds: "The strong recovery ambition called for in the government's 2010 drug strategy, and the investment in treatment, must be maintained if we are to consolidate and build on the gains we have made."
- US Pumps Support in to Liberia's Drug War [All Africa]
- States Legalizing Pot Race to Define Market’s Regulation [Bloomberg]
- More Cocaine Could Soon Be on Our Streets, Thanks to The Sequester [Mother Jones]
- Queen of England May Propose Plain Packaging for Cigarettes [The Huffington Post]
- How Bullying Leads to Eating Disorders [Huffington Post]
- Hostage Standoff At SF Pot-Growing Operation Ends; 4 Arrested [CBS]
- Edward Furlong Rejects Rehab, Gets 6 Months in Jail [Wet Paint]