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ROC Weekly News Bites
Veterinary Tranquilizer Overdoses Rising, Alcohol-Related Deaths Surpass COVID-Related Deaths During Pandemic, and ADHD Meds Pushed Through TikTok Ads
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Study Finds Steep Rise in Overdoses Linked to Veterinary Tranquilizer
A new study finds a steep increase in the number of overdoses linked to the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine.
Researchers studied 10 locations around the country, and found xylazine was involved in 6.7% of overdose deaths in 2020, compared with 0.36% in 2015. Almost all xylazine overdoses also involved fentanyl.
Experts say they are concerned that xylazine can increase the risk of a fatal overdose when combined with fentanyl because it can worsen the slowed breathing that opioids cause. Xylazine also may make it more difficult to reverse overdoses using the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.
“The drug supply is really a mess right now,” Friedman said. “The number of contaminants is just spiraling out of control, and it’s really hard to keep track of. People are not buying what they think they’re buying, or they don’t know what they’re buying.”
Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows
A new study reports that the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed, and treatment was delayed.
The startling report comes amid a growing realization that COVID-19’s toll extends beyond the number of lives claimed directly by the disease to the excess deaths caused by illnesses left untreated and a surge in drug overdoses, as well as to social costs such as educational setbacks and the loss of parents and caregivers.
Numerous reports have suggested that Americans drank more to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Binge drinking increased, as did emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal. But the new report found that the number of alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, soared, rising to 99,017 in 2020 from 78,927 in 2019 — an increase of 25% in the number of deaths in one year.
“The assumption is that there were lots of people who were in recovery and had reduced access to support that spring and relapsed,” said Aaron White, the report’s first author and a senior scientific adviser at the alcohol abuse institute.
“Stress is the primary factor in relapse, and there is no question there was a big increase in self-reported stress, and big increases in anxiety and depression, and planetwide uncertainty about what was coming next,” he said. “That’s a lot of pressure on people who are trying to maintain recovery.”
Among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths actually outnumbered deaths from COVID-19 in 2020; 74,408 Americans ages 16-64 died of alcohol-related causes, while 74,075 individuals younger than 65 died of COVID-19. The rate of increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 — 25% — outpaced the rate of increase of deaths from all causes, which was 16.6%.
Startups Push ADHD Meds Through TikTok Ads, Concerning Doctors
A wave of startups are using slick TikTok ads and loosened drug regulations to sell prescription medications for ADHD, like Adderall and Vyvanse, raising ethical and legal questions from doctors.
Combined with other social media posts and Google search results, the proliferation of drug ads on TikTok can convince kids to diagnose themselves with conditions they may not actually have, according to University of Colorado psychiatrist Dr. C. Neill Epperson.
“I hear parents say, you know, my kid comes to me and says, ‘I think I have ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, etc’… they’re like, where is my kid getting this?”
In addition to potentially drawing in users who are misdiagnosing themselves with ADHD, psychiatrists say that the startups run the risk of attracting people who are looking to get high or flip the pills for a profit.
“That is a really, really thin line between advertising and almost baiting,” said Dr. Yamalis Diaz, a child and adolescent psychology specialist at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “Especially among younger patients, they have certain names in their mind.”
Diaz also takes issue with what she calls “medication-forward advertising.”
“This could mislead people into thinking the treatment for ADHD is medication,” she said. “When in fact the first line treatment for ADHD should be behavioral therapy before you try meds or behavioral therapy combined with meds.”
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