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Your Child

FDA Warning: Don’t Give Kids Codeine, Tramadol

1:45

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning about the dangers of two popular painkillers and the effects they can have on children. The government agency said that Codeine and Tramadol should not be given to kids under the age of 12 because they can cause life-threatening breathing problems.

Nursing mothers should also avoid using these drugs, since they can pass unsafe levels of opioids to their babies through their breast milk, the agency said.

Some children and adults are genetically predisposed to process opioid drugs more quickly, the FDA said. That can cause the level of narcotics in the bloodstream to rise too high and too quickly, risking overdose in children, due to their smaller size.

"It's very hard to determine which child or mother has this risk, so that's why we've taken this action today," Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy center director for regulatory programs at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a media briefing.

Codeine is often combined with acetaminophen in prescription pain medicines and cough syrups, while Tramadol is only approved to treat pain in adults, the agency said.

The FDA is now warning against children under 12 years old taking either codeine or tramadol.

Kids under 18 also should not be given tramadol to treat pain following surgery to remove the tonsils or adenoids, the agency noted. Codeine labeling already warns against post-surgical use for kids.

In particular, children with sleep apnea, are obese or who have a weakened respiratory system are at a higher risk for dangerous breathing problems from these two drugs.

"Today's actions build on a better understanding of this very serious safety issue, based on the latest evidence," Throckmorton said.

Both of these medications are often prescribed and are in households.  Nearly 1.9 million kids aged 18 or younger received a prescription for a codeine-containing medication in 2014, and nearly 167,000 were prescribed a medication containing tramadol, the FDA said.

Parents should carefully read drug labels to make sure medications don't contain either opioid, the agency stressed. They also can ask their doctor or pharmacist if a specific medication contains codeine or tramadol.

"We understand there are limited options when it comes to treating pain and cough in children," Throckmorton said. "However, after careful review our decision to require these labeling updates was taken because we believe it is a way we can protect children."

The FDA plans to hold a public advisory committee meeting later this year to discuss the broader use of prescription opioid cough and cold medicine in children, he said.

Story source: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20170420/dont-give-kids-medicines-with-codeine-tramadol-fda#1

Daily Dose

College Drug Overdose

1:30 to read

Colleges are gearing up for a new school year and already there has just been a death reported at a fraternity house at Texas A&M University.  This news hit close to home as the adolescent who died was from a Dallas suburb and several of my patients attend Texas A&M and were even in the same fraternity.  

The misuse of opioid medications is a national epidemic and the drug scene on college campuses seems to be increasing. The misuse of opioid medications includes drugs which have been obtained both legally (by prescription for pain management) and illegally. Many of the college students that I take care of have recently told me that these drugs which include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl are relatively easy to obtain in dorms, frat houses, classrooms, and on line via social media sites.  All of these opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors in the brain to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain. Some students reported that friends often offered to “share” their unused pain relievers and would even offer them for free! Unfortunately, unintentional drug overdoses due to opioids also continues to rise and has more than quadrupled since 1999. Adolescents just don’t seem to realize the power of these drugs!

In the case of the recent death in our area, the teen was found unresponsive and not breathing in the early morning hours after a fraternity party. It was thought that he had combined alcohol (probably excessive) with an opioid. The toxicology reports are pending….but the police reported they found marijuana (which seems to be almost everywhere) and other drugs including not only opioids but also MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD and other drug paraphernalia. 

Just like alcohol poisoning following binge drinking, opioids also cause respiratory depression and loss of consciousness   The combination of the two may be even more deadly, which could occur even if this was the first time the teen had used opioids. There is an antidote to opioid overdose, Naloxone (Narcan) which may be injected (or given intranasally) to counter the effects of an opioid drug overdose.  It is now available over the counter and my be life saving if given soon enough, by helping to reverse the respiratory depression and allow the person to be transported to a hospital for life saving care.

If you are just sending your child off to college or back to college PLEASE talk to them about alcohol and drugs and reiterate that the combination may be even be more deadly!!  Even one time use could be the last time….so tragic.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Marijuana Use

1:30 to read

The legalization of marijuana in a majority of states for both medical or recreational use is making marijuana use more and more prevalent. It  has also made it incumbent for pediatricians to have conversations with teenage patients (and parents) about the harmful effects of marijuana use. 

 

We are now in the in the era of legalization of marijuana, and I find myself having more and more conversations with teenage patients who “think that weed is acceptable and safer than alcohol”.  That statement alone is worrisome. In fact, I “hear” that many teens are using marijuana on a daily basis, and do not realize or are in denial about any long term deleterious effects of daily marijuana use.

 

“Marijuana is not a benign drug, especially for teens. Their brains are still developing and marijuana can cause abnormal and unhealthy changes” according to a just published clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

 

Studies have shown that teens who use marijuana on a regular basis may develop serious mental health disorders including addiction and depression. (Some teens are wrongly trying to  self-medicate their own anxiety and depression with a depressant).  Marijuana may also decrease memory and concentration, as well as causing attentional and problem solving issues.  Going to school “high” is just not conducive to academic success.

 

There are also studies that have shown that addiction may be related to daily marijuana use.  17% of people who use marijuana in adolescence may become addicted and that number may increase to 50% for teen who smoke marijuana daily. Daily alcohol use and marijuana use are both harmful but do effect the brain in different ways.  

 

But even knowing those statistics, teen surveys done by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services found that there is decreasing concern for the risk of using marijuana once or twice a week among 12-17 year olds.

 

Parental use of marijuana is equally concerning. Parents not only expose their child to second hand smoke, but seeing parents using marijuana recreationally makes a child more likely to use marijuana themselves. Just like alcohol, being “high” on marijuana makes it difficult to parent and to provide a healthy home environment for a child.

 

Lastly, in my own years of practicing pediatrics I have seen more than a handful of teens who have had serious drug problems….they will all tell you their drug use did not begin with cocaine or meth or even heroin…..they all say it was marijuana that started them down the terrible path of drug addiction.

 

While there is a place for marijuana use in medicine for those with certain chronic conditions or for the management of reducing the side effects chemotherapy, marijuana use is not harmless and will never be.

 

Talk to your teens about drug use and specifically marijuana use…legalization does not make it safe. It is a slippery slope for sure.

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Teens & Substance Use

Daily Dose

Fake Pot is Dangerous!

1.15 to read

It seems that “fake marijuana” continues to be a problem with adolescents. In March of 2011 the DEA took emergency action to control five chemicals used to make so-called “fake pot”.  This action made possessing and/or selling these products illegal in the U.S.  These chemicals are now designated as Schedule 1 substances, which is the most restrictive category under the controlled substances act.  

But a recent online article in Pediatrics reported several case studies of adolescents presenting to ER’s with various unexplained and disturbing symptoms. In each of the cases the teens had a history of smoking “fake pot” sometimes alone, and sometimes with marijuana as well.  This fake pot often goes by the name, Spice, K-2, Aroma, Blaze, and Dream. The fake cannabinoids are not detectable on a routine drug screen. This makes it even more confusing and difficult for ER doctors to determine the cause of some of the behaviors being seen after smoking or ingesting “fake pot”. 

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has reported over 4500 calls involving synthetic cannabinoids (marijuana) since 2010. These “fake pot” products are often a blend of plant and herbal materials that are then sprayed with one of the active chemicals (that were outlawed last year) which results in the marijuana like high as well as other symptoms as well. Reports of high blood pressure, high heart rates, seizures and catatonic like states are now in the medical literature. There have even been adolescent deaths reported after the use of these “fake marijuana” substances. There is still speculation that Demi Moore was using some sort of “fake pot” prior to her seizure and call to 911. 

Unfortunately, despite the DEA’s attempts at controlling the chemicals used to make “fake pot” the makers of these drugs are “crafty and clever” about getting around the law. They may change the chemicals used to stay ahead of the DEA’s restrictions, or market them as incense which is not for human consumption. In either case, the makers of the drug are staying one step ahead of the DEA and the synthetic “fake pot” is still widely available, and may even be as close as your neighborhood convenience store! These products may easily be ordered on line. 

Younger tweens and teens are also hearing that these “fake marijuana” products are safer and cannot be detected if used.  It is incumbent that parents continue to discuss drug use as well as the dangers of “fake pot”. A young unsuspecting teen may not even understand what is in these products and that even if “not illegal” smoking or ingesting them may lead to serious and possibly life threatening side effects. 

Parents, talk to your kids about this…it can be a matter of life or death.  

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Prescription Drug Abuse

1.30 to read

Several weeks ago, 23 students at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth Texas were busted for drug use and solicitation.  The newspaper and TV shows have been covering this story with great detail.  While making my morning coffee, a recent update stopped me dead in my tracks. 

I had just been talking with several parents, as well as adolescent patients, about the escalating use of prescription drugs in our community, especially among high school students, and TCU is in our “backyard”. 

This is another “wake up” call! While teens and college students across the country may not be using as many illicit drugs, their new “drugs of choice” are prescription drugs. They deem these drugs to be legal, “safer” as well as easier to obtain. This is alarming on so many different fronts. 

A CDC report in 2009 found that 20% of teens had admitted to having taken a prescription medication, without a prescription. 

In 2010 the Monitoring the Future survey found that prescription drugs were the most commonly used drugs after alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. Lastly, another study among adolescents reported that 7.7% of 12-17 year olds reported misuse of prescription drugs!  Teens unfortunately believe that prescription drugs are “safer” to use than illicit drugs.  Unfortunately, they are dead wrong. 

Looking at another recent headline, the reality of prescription drug abuse continues.  Whitney Houston’s untimely death looks to be most likely secondary to some mixture of prescription drugs. 

The story of Demi Moore’s seizure and hospitalization has rumors swirling of prescription drug abuse (along with “something” else). 

The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into several categories which include:  painkillers (Vicodan, Percocet, oxycontin), stimulants (used for ADHD such as Adderall, Ritalin), or depressants (used for anxiety and sleep, such as xanax, valium, klonopin). While all of these classes of drugs are safe when used appropriately, when taken illegally and in combination, the side effects can kill you.  Mix any of these with alcohol, as so many teens and young adults are doing, and you may have respiratory depression and then your heart can stop!  A quiet death. 

I hear reports of teens taking pills which were typically obtained from a “friend’s” parents medicine cabinet. Several students in my area have been hospitalized due to the combination of prescription drugs and alcohol.  It is amazing to me how many households have many of the drugs mentioned above just hanging around in their medicine cabinets.  

I have also seen college students who have come home due to a viral illness, such as mono, and they have come in to see me for follow up.  They have brought along narcotics that the student health center had given them for their painful sore throat, or pills to help them sleep while they are sick.  Unbelievably there were a lot of pills prescribed for a fairly short illness and several bottles even had refills!! What are doctors thinking?   

Parents need to LOCK up medications just like the liquor cabinet. When teens come to hang out and they used to “steal” beer from the refrigerator, they are now heading to bathrooms to pocket a bottle of Xanax from a parental medicine cabinet. Scary stuff. 

Talk to your tweens/teens/young adults about the risks surrounding the use of prescription medications when they have not been prescribed. Discuss alcohol and drugs in combination. Show them the headlines in the news. The problem is real.       

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

K2: New Legal "Drug" For Teens?

1.30 to read

I was seeing patients the other day when I saw a teenage boy that I have taken care of since he was born (one of the perks of being a pediatrician).  He came in over lunch with his mother, as she had called me earlier that morning, and she wanted him to have a drug screen. She had found a “pipe” in some pants of his and she was concerned that he was smoking marijuana.  I am often asked to perform drug screens on kids, and I really think it is important to sit down with the child and parents to discuss their concern, rather than ruin the trust of the teen, and blindside them with the results of a drug screen obtained under false pretenses. So…the point of this is that the adolescent told me that he had been smoking K2.  He told me that it was a “legal” substance that you could buy over the internet or in smoke shops. K2 is a mixture of herbal and spice products that are then sprayed with a psychotropic drug.  When asked why he would smoke it, he told me that it had similar effects as marijuana with an overall feeling of feeling good, sleepy, and relaxed.   Seeing that I did not know anything about this new substance, I got my computer, brought it into the exam room and “googled” K2, only to see many different articles. The most interesting was an article in LiveScience written earlier this year, that explained how K2 had been developed by a research scientist who was studying cannabinoid receptors in the brain.  He had published articles about this substance (which when first discovered went by his initials, JWH-018),  and had found that that K2 binds to the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, and that it is actually much more potent than marijuana. K2 may be 10 times more active than THC (marijuana) and while it may have many of the same effects as the high with marijuana, it  has also been found to cause hallucinations, and seizures. Upon further investigation, I found that it is becoming a problem in many states with plenty of information on the internet. K2 has already been declared illegal in the state of Kansas.  There are concerns that this drug has caused adverse effects and ER visits due to hallucinations, vomiting, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, which are not typical symptoms seen with marijuana.  K2 does not show up on routine drug screens.  There is a researcher in St. Louis who is studying K2 and is seeking urine samples obtained from teens who have used the substance.  I called several private labs in my area and they did not have the capability of testing for it. The good news in my patient’s case is that he told me about K2, had not smoked it in the last several weeks, and his urine drug screen was negative for marijuana and other drugs. Oh the things we must learn to keep up with adolescents! How someone discovered the article written in scientific journals in the late 1990’s and extrapolated that this compound, which binds to the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, could be used “legally” for a high similar to “weed”  is beyond me.  But kids are really “smart and clever” and will do almost anything for a “high” especially in this case with a product that is easily obtained and is legal.  After a lengthy discussion with this boy and his mother I understand that K2 use is quite prevalent in his high school, even among the “non-drug” crowd. I am going to continue researching this topic and will keep you posted. But if you have an adolescent who you think exhibits odd behavior and may even require a visit to the ER for a suspected overdose, and the drug screen turns out to be negative, be aware of K2. Lastly, talk to your teens, they are probably already in the know. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

College Students & Drugs

1:30 to read

It is the end of the school year and therefore there seems to be a great deal of stress among students of all ages. I am especially seeing this in some of my college students…..who seem to be making some rather dangerous choices in order to “help them cram for finals” and “stay awake”.

In the past few weeks I have had several students who have purchased or somehow procured a variety of drugs that were “purported” to aid in their studying for finals.  While there has been a great deal in the news about opiod addiction in young adult males, some of my patients have preferred other drugs that are seemingly available and acquiring them illegally.  

The on line drug scene, as well as the drug dealing among students, seems to be a growing problem among some college students.  While I have known that there was a great deal of alcohol and weed being used and abused, I suddenly feel as if I am getting more calls about patients, typically male, being taken to the ER after trying a combination of drugs, which were purportedly being taken to help them study, stay awake, curb anxiety and “succeed in school”.

So, what to do when you realize you have a test in a few days, or a paper that is due and you are “freaking out” as you are not prepared?!?!  Your roommate, or friend in the dorm, or even a complete stranger on line offers you an option - why not take a “stimulant”,  the preferred drug seems to be Adderall  (which was not prescribed for you) and chase it with an anti-anxiety drug   (Xanax, Valium or Ativan) then add in some alcohol when you need to chill or get some sleep. Some have even bought an unknown drug that is also supposed to curb anxiety and relax you (on line fake quaaludes)? This same scenario may occur over a few days or even weeks. While these patients thought they were “fine” and ready for class the next morning they were not!  In several cases these “crazy, stupid boys” suffered a grand mal seizure..never making it to class. Truly they are lucky to be alive the way they combined all of these medications.

Neither of my patients had ever had a history of seizures and were otherwise healthy.  Thankfully, they both recovered without problems.  But, they both admitted to me that they were just one of many who were doing the same thing.  Why they asked, did they have “adverse effects” from this lifestyle, when lots of their friends seemed to be fine….really??? I don’t even have words to try and answer this.

When I probed about how they “acquired” these drugs they said they are for sale in the dorms or on line and basically all over their campuses…..and these students attended what would be called “good” colleges. I have asked several kids who were already home from school about this and they too had heard some similar stories….and were aware of drugs being readily available, but had not partaken.

So, when your college student gets home you might take the opportunity to ask some questions about their college experience and if they are aware of these drugs …and remind them of the fact that taking ANY drug which is not prescribed for them is dangerous.  I have discussed binge drinking before and warn all of my student/patients that drinking excessive alcohol to “get drunk and pass out” can kill you from alcohol poisoning. But after hearing these stories and dealing with my own patients and their visits to the ER I am adding more information to my check ups with college students.  Mixing alcohol  and drugs has always been risky….but now the availability of these drugs is nothing but scary…..BE WARNED.  

Your Teen

Teen Drug Use On The Rise, Again

Teen drug use is on the rise and parents need to take note.After nearly 10 years of declining numbers, teen drug use has reversed course and is rising among 9th-12th graders.

A  joint study published by the Partnership for a Drug Free America and the MetLife Foundation revealed the following: *teen alcohol use grew to 39% from 28% in 2008 * yearly and monthly marijuana us increased to 38% and 25%, respectively *75% of teenagers say they have friends who get high at parties, a 9% increase from 2008 The study revealed several reasons for the increase including less federal funding for drug-prevention programs in schools and the media. Inhalants like glue, nails polish remover, spray paints, and cleaning fluids pose a growing risk among teens.  These items are cheap readily available in a home and are used by younger teens to get a “quick high”. Over the past several years, studies have revealed that teen access to drugs, especially prescription medicines, is easier than ever. So what can parents do?  Be aware of any mood swings or behavior changes in your teen.  Make an effort to get know your child’s friends.  Eat dinner as a family.  Studies continue to prove that children who sit down to a family dinner do better in school and are less likely to get involved with risky behaviors.

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