‘Prescription Drug Abuse’ Posts
Is there anything you can’t find on Google? Cross prescription pills off that list, as the Internet behemoth is in hot water for allowing illicit online pharmacies to advertise in search results.
In 2011, Google forfeited $500 million to the Department of Justice for hosting illegal ads for Canadian pharmacies selling medication in the US. It was revealed that top-ranking officials at the company, including CEO Larry Page, were aware that these Canadian pharmacies were circumventing the law but did not move swiftly enough to stop them.
In a recent article published by USA Today, the National Association of Attorneys General alleges that Google has not cleaned up its act. According to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the Google search engine yields plentiful results for websites selling prescription drugs illegally. Moreover, such sites use YouTube, which is owned by Google, to post “how-to” videos for purchasing counterfeit goods.
Google has taken the allegations very seriously. “In the last two years, we’ve removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies, and we routinely remove videos that are flagged for violating YouTube’s Guidelines regarding dangerous or illegal content,” the company said in a statement released last Thursday.
Mr. Hood and his colleagues do not seem to be buying Google’s excuses. As he sees it, the corporation is not only putting its users at risk but also profiting handsomely from doing so. People who post videos to YouTube must allow Google to include advertisements on the video display pages. The revenues from the ads are eventually split between Google and the users.
A report by the Digital Citizens Alliance claims that the aforementioned “how-to” videos “link to websites selling drugs such as Tramadol or Percocet and act as ‘commercials’ for drug-distribution websites.’”
This news comes at a time when prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high. Criminals will continue to exploit the Internet’s potential as a limitless black market. With deeper pockets and more influence than just about any corporation in the world, Google ought to take a stand and put public health over profit.
David Noble, Editor
In today’s barrage of natural disasters, domestic terrorism, and mass violence, Americans are demanding a better safety net. Primarily, they seek refuge from the 45.6 million people suffering from mental illnesses, including the 8 million that meet the criteria for substance abuse disorders. Tragically, America’s broken mental health-care system may actually be making the problem worse, and due to the Great Recession, the fiscal cliff, and sequestration, the same economic and social barriers prevent America from recovering.
Part of the problem is that we know very little about mental illness, much less how to treat it effectively. We do know that emotional mental disorders are a leading cause of disabilities worldwide. But in the last year, the most common treatment method in America—used by 26.8 million adults—was prescription medication. (The second most common was outpatient rehabilitation, which is often court-mandated.) At a time when prescription drug overdoses kill 100 people every day in the US, this seems irresponsible.
Though America spends more than almost all other countries on mental health services ($113 billion, annually), access to mental health care is worse than most other medical services: 89.3 million Americans live in federally-designated “Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.” Even with expansions to the provisions of Medicaid and Medicare in some states, most Americans pay for mental health services through private health insurance (37.9 percent), followed by self-payment or payment by a family member living in the household (33.7 percent), then by Medicare (15.2 percent), then by Medicaid (11.9 percent), or an employer (7.1 percent).
Those without insurance and who aren’t covered by federal programs are left with no way of receiving mental health-care services, so the treatment of the mentally ill shifts toward other places in the health-care system: the sickest patients end up in jails, emergency rooms, and homeless shelters. In 2011, 4.9 million adults who needed treatment did not receive any mental health services in the past year, with an astounding 50.1 percent who were unable to afford care.
The chart above illustrates many stigmas that prevent people from receiving professional mental health care. Personal stigmas, such as the belief that one does not have time for treatment, that one can handle the problem without treatment, or that treatment would not help, prevent most people from getting treatment. Social stigmas, such as the belief that one’s neighbors or community will have a negative opinion or that treatment may have a negative effect on one’s job, keep certain at-risk demographics—including women, LGBTQ individuals, and Native Americans—from receiving mental health care. This indicates not only a need for new attitudes surrounding mental health care, but also for specialized treatment of these unique groups.
The good news is that effective mental health-care services actually pay for themselves over time, as certain states are discovering. By addressing mental health issues before they can develop into more serious compulsions and behaviors, we can prevent future problems years in advance and become a healthier, more emphatic society.
Ray Lumpp, Editor
28 year-old John Andrew Welden was indicted on one count first degree murder Tuesday in Florida after allegedly tricking his girlfriend into aborting their child. Tampa Bay Times reports that the crime took place in March after an ultrasound performed by the accused’s father, Dr. Stephen Ward Welden, confirmed the pregnancy.
John Welden then forged his father’s signature on a prescription for Cytotec, an FDA approved drug known to cause uterine contractions resulting in spontaneous miscarriage, and relabeled the bottle as “Amoxicillin.” Welden’s girlfriend, 26-year-old Remee Lee, took the medication thinking it was an antibiotic meant to cure a supposed bacterial infection in her blood. Shortly after she began taking the pills, Lee complained of stomach pains. Easter morning she woke in a pool of her own blood; she had miscarried.
Doctors at the hospital where she was rushed informed her that the baby’s heart had stopped. When Lee showed them her prescription, medical professionals knew right away that they were not Amoxicilin.
“I was never going to do anything but go full term with it, and he didn’t want me to,” Says ex-girlfriend Lee, who planned to take care of the child on her own. “I can’t believe someone did something so malicious to me, not only to me but to himself; it was our baby.”
Though Welden’s defense attorney called the crime “aberrant”, she is quick to point out her client has no previous criminal history. Still, Welden faces up to life in prison under the “Protection of Unborn Children Act.”
The persecution claims Welden confessed his crimes in a phone call recorded by authorities. According to U.S Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow, Welden admits that he knew the pills would cause contractions and that he used a label maker to doctor the pill bottle. There are even reports that Welden went as far as to scratch off identifiers on the pills.
Since his incitement, ex-girlfriend Remme Lee filed a civil suit against Welden for battery and intentional infliction of emotional harm.
Welden’s father, Dr. Stephen Ward Welden, has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
-Jekeva Phillips, Managing Editor
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The term “drug cocktail” can have a number of different connotations. In the case of treating HIV or AIDS, doctors have developed a plan of attack in which patients take at least three antiretroviral medications (ARVs) at once. This strategy, known as “highly active antiretroviral therapy” (HAART), has been effective in helping reverse the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa, a country which has the world’s largest population of individuals infected by the disease. But a more pernicious type of drug cocktail has hit the streets of South Africa: “whoonga,” a potent mix of marijuana, heroin and ARVs.
Reports of whoonga abuse first began to surface at the beginning of the 2010′s. The drug is most widely abused in the KwaZulu-Natal province, the country’s poorest region, as well as the area with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Whoonga users crush the antiretroviral medication into powder and smoke it in combination with street drugs. Efavirenz, one of several ARVs typically used in HAART, can elicit hallucinations and is believed to enhance the effects of substances like marijuana and methamphetamine. Whoonga is highly addictive and long-term abuse can prove fatal.
The growing whoonga problem presents a myriad of consequences for South African society. Drug gangs have been known to rob HIV/AIDS patients leaving clinics with refills of their antiretroviral medications. Addicts commit thefts to continue feeding their habits. Perhaps most cruelly, individuals who get hooked on whoonga can develop strains of the virus resistant to ARVs. These strains can then be passed on to others.
Like the population of South Africans infected with HIV/AIDS, whoonga users tend to be black. Since the end of apartheid in the early 90s, black South Africans have worked hard to undo the social injustices wrought by a century’s worth of racial oppression. Whoonga represents yet another hurdle in the march to take back their country.
David Noble, Editor
Suicide is typically considered a problem for adolescents and older Americans, but suicide rates have risen sharply among Baby Boomers in the last decade. Though suicide rates often rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks, other contributing factors may be the easy access to firearms and prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and others, for most middle-aged Americans.
Most suicides occur in late spring and early summer. Historically, the most common method is use of firearms, but in the last decade there was a marked increase in poisoning deaths and hangings: poisoning deaths were up 24% and hangings were up 81%. Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher.
Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, nearly three times as many men take their own lives. The biggest increases were in people in their fifties—a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50% since 1999.
More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: in 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.
Research suggests that the risk for suicide is unlikely to abate for future generations. Changes in marriage, social isolation, and family roles mean many of the pressures faced by baby boomers will continue on in the next generation.
Prevention and support for family members who lose someone to suicide—also known as “survivors”—must be a focus in order to slow the rising rates. Suicide has been proven to be “infectious,” in that it can inspire other people to view it as an option, but it is preventable. Together we must face the hard truth and end the stigma associated with suicide in order to save countless lives in the future.
Ray Lumpp, Managing Editor
Popular 90’s country singer Mindy McCready took her life Sunday with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Yellow tape sectioned off the porch of McCready’s Herber Springs, Arkansas home, the same spot where her boyfriend, David Wilson, reportedly took his own life last month.
Country stars and fans took to twitter to mourn the singer. Wynonna Judd, a country singer who, like Mindy, has struggled with substance abuse tweets: “Oh my! Mindy. Dear sweet girl. This is so sad. It just breaks my heart what addiction continues to take from this life.”
The 37 year-old mother of two faced a rollercoaster of ups and downs throughout her career mostly attributed to substance abuse and the battle over the custody of her children. After she skyrocketed to fame in the mid 90’s with her hit single “Guys Do It All The Time”, and had great success with her album Ten Thousand Angels, the promising singer became plagued with hardships including multiple drug arrests, several suicide attempts, and an abusive relationship with fellow country singer Billy McKnight, the father of McCready’s oldest son.
In a 2010 Interview with the Associated Press following her stint on the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab 3” McCready said: “It is a giant whirlwind of chaos all the time. I call my life a beautiful mess and organized chaos. It’s just always been like that. My entire life things have been attracted to me and vice versa that turn into chaotic nightmares or I create the chaos myself. I think that’s really the life of a celebrity, of a big, huge, giant personality.”
The circumstances of McCready’s suicide are unclear, but it comes as no surprise to her former ex Billy McKnight who admitted McCready attempted suicide at least twice during their relationship. McCready recently checked into court-ordered rehab and gave her two children, six year-old Zander and ten month-old Zayne, up for adoption. McCready’s father asked the judge to intervene saying the singer failed to take care of her two children and was abusing alcohol and prescription drugs.
McCready is the fifth celebrity to pass away to have appeared on “Celebrity Rehab” and the third to have died from Season 3 alone. The alarming statistic of the reality show’s death toll is gaining attention. Some say that the show’s host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, should be held accountable, but who to blame is not nearly as important as the question of television ratings and mental health. Can an addict receive proper support with a camera in front of their face? Celebrities often cite excessive media attention as a major factor of their substance abuse, the anxiety and pressure being just too much to bear. Turning a mental health issue into prime time television seems detrimental to the recovery process, in fact if “Celebrity Rehab 3” is any measure to go on, it is downright unethical. However, before we cast stones at Dr. Drew, we must also remember that current relapse statistics are not in favor of recovering addicts. Statistics range anywhere from 50-90% depending on the type of drug and the severity of the drug addiction at the time the individual first receives treatment. McCready’s drug use began again shortly after boyfriend David Wilson’s death in January, sadly her destructive behaviors got the better of her.
Mindy McCready’s suicide was a tragic end to a life spent battling uphill. She will be sorely missed by her fans and loved ones.