from the time-to-skip-middle-age dept.
Gina Kolata reports at The New York Times that something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling, primarily because of the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites who are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans. "It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude," say Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner.
Though not fully understood, the increased deaths are largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol, driven by easier access to powerful prescription painkillers, cheaper high quality heroin and greater financial stresses. Death rates for people with a high school education or less rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education. The rise in death rates among middle-aged white Americans means half a million more people have died in the US since 1998 than if the previous trend had continued. The death toll is comparable to the 650,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic from 1981 to the middle of this year, the researchers say. Anne Case and Angus Deaton warn that middle-aged Americans who are turning to drink and drugs are set to suffer more health problems than their elders unless the downwards trend can be halted. "This is not automatic. If the epidemic is brought under control, its survivors may have a healthy old age. However, addictions are hard to treat and pain is hard to control, so those currently in midlife may be a 'lost generation' whose future is less bright than those who preceded them."
In order to help fight the heroin epidemic in the northeast United States, Kroger supermarkets and CVS pharmacies will carry the anti-overdose (opioid antagonist) drug naloxone (trade name: Narcan) over the counter:
Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. said Friday it will make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky, a region hard-hit by deadly heroin. Kroger said more than 200 of its pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days. "We want families dealing with addiction to know that they can count on having the drug available in the event that they need it," Jeff Talbot, Kroger vice president of merchandising, said in a statement.
Ohio fire crews and other first responders use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 percent in 2014, one of the nation's sharpest increases. Those on the front lines of the battle against heroin's spread have increasingly supported allowing and educating families and friends of addicts to administer naloxone in emergencies.
State regulators in Ohio and Kentucky have allowed the drug to be sold over the counter. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Kroger officials at a Cincinnati grocery store for the retailer's announcement. Portman has been pushing a multi-pronged heroin bill in the Senate that includes expanded availability of naloxone. "This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and we all need to continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic," Portman, from the Cincinnati area, said in a statement.
CVS said recently it will soon offer naloxone without a prescription at its Ohio pharmacies.
Naloxone became available over the counter in Australia on February 1.
In the U.S., there are currently a patchwork of state laws which govern access to Naloxone.
In the U.K. as of 1 October, 2015, "...[A]ny worker in a commissioned drug service can now distribute naloxone without prescription."
The Obama administration is loosening restrictions on buprenorphine/Suboxone prescriptions in order to fight the "heroin epidemic", while calling on Congress to act on a request for $1.1 billion in additional funding for opioid treatment programs across the U.S.:
The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine. Doctors who are licensed to prescribe the drug, which is sold mostly under the brand name Suboxone, will be allowed to treat as many as 275 patients a year. That's almost triple the current limit of 100, and HHS estimated that as many as 70,000 more people may have access to the drug as a result.
"There are a number of ways we are trying to increase access to medication-assisted treatment," said Michael Botticelli, the director of national drug control policy, on a conference call with reporters. "This rule itself expands access and gets more physicians to reach more patients."
Suboxone is itself an opioid. It eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but doesn't make people high. [...] Botticelli said an average 129 people a day die from opioid overdoses.
White House Announces Heroin Response Strategy for the US Northeast
Alarming Rise in Death Rates for Middle-Aged White Americans
Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
4/20: Half-Baked Headline