The publication of a Drug Enforcement Administration database that provides a “virtual roadmap” of painkillers sold in the US reveals that American drug companies “saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control.” The Washington Post reports that “plaintiffs have long accused drug manufacturers and wholesalers of fueling the opioid epidemic by producing and distributing billions of pain pills while making billions of dollars… but the previous cases addressed only a portion of the problem, never allowing the public to see the size and scope of the behavior underlying the epidemic… “The depth and penetration of the opioid epidemic becomes readily apparent from the data,” said Peter J. Mougey, a lawyer for the plaintiffs from Pensacola, Fla. “This disclosure will serve as a wake up call to every community in the country. America should brace itself for the harsh reality of the scope of the opioid epidemic. Transparency will lead to accountability.”’
Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a tentative 5% decrease in drug overdose deaths in 2018, though the data is preliminary and Vox’s German Lopez reports on additional reasons to be cautious about these findings, including an increase in deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the fact that if the preliminary findings hold that means 68,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2018, which would make 2018 “the second-worst year for drug overdose deaths in US history — adding up to more than deaths linked to guns, cars, or even HIV/AIDS at its peak. This is not where the country should want to end up on drug overdoses.”
New research published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that the number of children entering the foster care system due to parental drug use has more than doubled since 2000. Mother Jones reports that “the effects of this rise in drug-related foster care admissions will likely be long-lasting: Decades of research has shown that children who experience traumatic events early in life are more likely to suffer from a host of long-term mental and physical repercussions known as “toxic stress.” “Toxic stress are the long-term changes to not only brain structure and function, but also to the hormonal system, immune system, and even all the way down to the way our DNA is read and transcribed,” Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, now California’s Surgeon General, told Mother Jones in 2017. Children who have gone through traumatic events—including exposure to parental drug use or separation from a parent—are significantly more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and substance use themselves. “Kids who have parents who are substance dependent get a double whammy,” Burke Harris explained. “They may have a genetic predisposition to substance susceptibility, and they also have both a psychological and a neurological increased susceptibility to substance abuse.””
The Department of Homeland Security announced new asylum rules this week that would make it almost impossible for refugees from Central America to seek asylum in the US by blocking asylum-seekers who pass through other countries on their way to the US border but did not apply for asylum in those countries from seeking asylum in the US.
National Public Radio reports on the push by some doctors and patient advocacy groups to address the issue of climate change in medical care settings: “Gaurab Basu, a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, says he's ready if patients want to talk about climate change, but he doesn't bring it up. Basu says he must make sure patients feel safe in the exam room. Raising a controversial political issue might erode that feeling. When patients do ask about climate change, it can be "a difficult conversation," he says. "I have to be honest about the science and the threat that is there, and it is quite alarming," Basu says. So alarming that Basu says he often refers patients to counseling. Psychiatrists concerned about the effects of climate change on mental health say there are no standards of care in their profession yet… "We're trying to create a demand for these conversations to get started," says Molly Rauch, the public health policy director with Moms Clean Air Force, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund. Rauch urges the group's more than one million members to ask doctors and nurses for guidance. For example: When should parents keep children indoors because the outdoor air is too dirty? "This isn't too scary for us to hear about," Rauch says. "We are hungry for information about this, we want to know." But Rauch says it doesn't seem like climate change is breaking into the medical community as a health issue. One study found classes about environmental health or global warming at only 20 out of 140 U.S. medical schools.”
City Parks Alliance and the Urban Institute released a new overview of strategies to fund parks and green infrastructure in communities of low income, including more equitable allocation of traditional funding streams like fees and property taxes, philanthropic and community resources, impact bonds, and brownfields grants, among other sources.
In a California Health Report op-ed, PI's Elva Yanez recognizes the communities and policy advocates behind the bill to fund improvements in California’s water infrastructure, while calling on the field of public health to take further action to make water safe and accessible for all communities.
In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, PI's Leslie Mikkelsen calls out the beverage industry as they stymied 5 bills this legislative session, all designed to reduce children's consumption of sugary beverages. "Bills to tax sugary drinks, put warning labels on them, keep them out of checkout lanes, cap serving sizes and limit discounts were all stopped or stalled.”