The Changing Face of the Opioid Epidemic: Minorities at Increasing Risk

A new study of opioid deaths in metropolitan areas from 2015-17 published last Thursday indicates that the crisis is spreading beyond the white population and into minority communities at alarming rates. Closely examining such impacts across different racial and ethnic groups in metropolitan areas, researchers tracked three categories: large central metro, large fringe metro, and medium/small metro.

Over the two-year study period, opioid death rates increased among all racial and ethnic groups in every metropolitan area. Black Americans suffered the greatest increases specifically in large metro areas with deaths from any opioid increased by 103% to 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people. Deaths from synthetic opioids alone increased a whopping 361% to 13 deaths per 100,000 people.

Since 2013, synthetic opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), have been linked to nearly 60% of opioid deaths in 2017 — possibly because they're frequently mixed with other illegal drugs. Researchers urge rapid implementation of a “culturally tailored and multifaceted public health response” appropriately targeted to minority populations at increasing risk from opioids.

Non-Drug Lifestyle Interventions Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s, Boost Memory and Cognition 

Research published Wednesday revealed individually-tailored lifestyle interventions such as changing diet or exercise, learning something new, listening to music, practicing meditation, and even cultivating rules like “no coffee after 2 pm” to protect sleep halted cognitive decline in those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. Findings also showed that such interventions improved memory and thinking within 18 months.

154 participants were enrolled, and each was assigned an average of 21 out of 50 possible lifestyle adjustments. Physical activity and nutrition were by far the most effective.

Those with diagnosed mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who followed at least 60% of their recommendations saw cognitive improvements while those who did fewer interventions than that declined further. Interestingly, participants without MCI who followed at least 60 percent of their recommendations also saw a cognitive boost.

Though 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, this degenerative condition begins developing in the brain decades before diagnosable symptoms appear. For the 30 to 40 million Americans at risk of silent disease progression, the healing effects of lifestyle changes are a welcome development in preclinical Alzheimer’s treatment.

More Difficult for Women to Quit Smoking Than Men

A new Canadian study found women were only half as likely to successfully quit smoking as men. Women represented 35 percent of 233 participants who’d visited a smoking cessation clinic at least twice between 2008 and 2018. On average, the group smoked 18 cigarettes per day for 37 years.

After six months in the program, which included individualized medical counseling and possibly prescription nicotine replacement therapy, 25 percent of participants had quit smoking while 29 percent had cut their habit at least in half.

Women had a higher prevalence of anxiety or depression than men (41% versus 21% respectively), which along with hormonal and social factors may help explain the smoking cessation discrepancy.

Further analysis of gender and gender-specific treatment is needed for greater understanding, study author Dr. Carolina Gonzaga Carvalho told French news agency AFP-Relaxnews.

Vaping Illnesses Possibly Linked to THC Vapes, Michigan's Flavored Vape Ban Lifted

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported an updated total of 1,888 cases of the mysterious lung disease associated with e-cigarettes, or vaping, across all states except Alaska, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with 37 deaths confirmed in 24 states as of last Thursday.

State and national findings appear to indicate a link between the disease and exposure to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, with most samples tested by the CDC containing THC and most patients reporting a history of THC use. Marijuana vapes obtained on the street or through informal networks have been the common denominator among most of the vape-related illness cases.

On Sept. 3, Michigan ordered that all flavored vape products be removed from store shelves. This ban went into effect on Oct. 2. Two weeks later, Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims granted a preliminary injunction, blocking the state’s ban on flavored vapes. In a statement, she said that the harm done to vape businesses, which would have to shut down because of the ban, outweighs the interest of the state in stopping youths from using the products.

Per a report by Mlive, “emergency rules can stay in place for six months and get a six-month extension before needing to go through the regular rule making process to stay in place.” The ban and injunction may be overruled by federal law as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to ban all e-cigarettes other than those that taste like tobacco and menthol.