Roundup: Obesity, Diabetes Rates Edge Higher in New CDC Update; Opioids Often Ineffective for Back Pain

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the obesity rate among adults 20 years of age and older, climbed slightly in 2015. The CDC also found that the percentage of Americans who said they had diabetes also continued to climb.

The report contains survey data from more than 100,000 people. Since 1957, the CDC has been asking Americans 18 and older, about their health and the health of family members as part of its National Health Interview Survey.

In 2015, 30.4 percent of Americans 20 and older, said they were obese. That’s up slightly from 29.6 percent in 2014.

However, the new figure represents an ongoing epidemic that has not slowed at least since 1997, when researchers began using the current survey and when only 19.4 percent of Americans said they were obese.

For both sexes combined, the prevalence of obesity was highest among adults aged 40–59 (34.6 percent), followed by adults aged 60 and over (30.1 percent), and aged 20–39 (26.5 percent). For the age group 40–59, the prevalence of obesity was higher among men than among women (36.3 percent vs. 33.0 percent).

The rate of diabetes also increased slightly last year, the CDC found. Among Americans 18 and older, 9.5 percent said they had been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with 9.1 percent in 2014. As with obesity, the increase was slight but marks the continuation of a troubling trend. In 1997, only 5.1 percent of Americans said they had diabetes.

Obesity is defined by the CDC as a body mass index of 30 or more. The measure is based on self-reported height and weight of those surveyed.

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Opioids Often Inefffective for Back Pain, Study Finds

For people with chronic low-back pain who can tolerate opioid analgesics, these painkillers provide modest short-term pain relief, according to a new analysis of clinical studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

But the analysis also found that the long-term effectiveness of opioids to treat acute low-back pain is unknown.The drugs relieved back pain slightly, but the effects were not clinically significant in the short-term. The opioids also failed to do much to improve disability, the analysis found.

There was some indication that larger doses worked better to relief pain. But most trials had high dropout rates, up to 75 percent in some case, because of adverse side effects or inefficacy.

“In people with chronic low-back pain, opioid analgesics provide short and/or intermediate pain relief, though the effect is small and not clinically important even at higher doses,” reads the analysis. “Many trial patients stopped taking the medicine because they did not tolerate or respond to the medicine.”

A total of 20 trials of opioid analgesics (involving roughly 7,295 participants) were included in the review.

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Children’s Leftover Prescription Painkillers Increase Risk of Misuse

An increasing number of children are being prescribed opioid painkillers for surgery or illness, and parents need to pay more attention to what happens to the pills once they’re at home, medical experts caution.

According to a recent survey of 1,200 parents with at least one child between 5 and 17 years of age, 30 percent said their kids had received pain medication prescriptions, mostly for narcotic drugs such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet) or hydrocodone. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health called attention to the risk these adolescents face by detailing what often happens to children’s leftover prescription pain medicine, including:

  • Only 8 percent of parents reported returning the leftover medication to a pharmacy or doctor.
  • 30 percent disposed of the medication in the trash or toilet.
  • 6 percent said other family members used the medication.
  • 9 percent couldn’t recall where the medication went.

The survey results highlighted the positive effect doctors can have educating parents about safe handling of the narcotics prescribed to their children. According to the study:

  • In homes where doctors didn’t give guidance on what to do with excess pills, 56 percent of parents kept the extra pills at home, the survey found.
  • When providers talked to parents about what to do with any excess drugs, 26 percent had leftover pills in the home.
  • Only 30 percent of parents said their child’s doctor had discussed what to do with leftover medicine.

Of the 21.5 million Americans, aged 12 or older, who had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million were misusing prescription pain relievers, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study also found nearly 170,000 adolescents (ages 12 to 17) were suffering from addiction to prescription pain relievers.

In 2011, SAMHSA estimated that on a typical day in 2011, out of the 777 drug-related emergency department visits by adolescents aged 12 to 17:

  • 496 involved the use of illegal drugs or the misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals.
  • 74 involved prescription or nonprescription pain relievers.
  • 26 involved narcotic pain relievers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Addiction to opioids often leads to the use of more lethal drugs, such as heroin, experts say.

Paul E. Keck Jr., M.D., a renowned professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, cited an alarming trend in the U.S. – the increase in heroin use by adolescents – at the most recent Baptist Health South Florida Speaker Series: Thought Leaders in Medicine held in Coral Gables, Fla.

“Heroin usage by children ages 12-17 skyrocketed 200 percent between 2005 and 2012, resulting in a devastating 350 percent increase in overdoses from the dangerous drug,” Dr. Keck said.  “Many of these young people first were addicted to opioids before moving to heroin.”

More than 110 tons of addictive opioids are consumed in America each year, he added.

According to David Vittoria, assistant vice president of South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center, “The medicine cabinet at home is one of the most common places that teens and adolescents can access and open the door to prescription drug misuse. We caution parents all the time about closely guarding prescription medications, particularly narcotics.”

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