Current Drugs on the Market

Drug abuse is not just limited to the inner city. The suburbs are no longer a safe haven. Drug use is not only increasing, but the number of drugs being used and abused is also on the rise. Here are a few facts to consider involving current drug trends:

The Rise of Heroin

A legislative task force found that heroin use among Illinois high school students is an issue across the state, affecting students as young as the eighth grade. From 2011-12, the deaths related to heroin use rose from 26 to 42 in DuPage County, from 30 to 53 in Will County, from nine to 16 in McHenry County, and from nine to 27 in Kane County. In just the month of July in 2013, DuPage County saw 11 people fatally overdose on heroin. The youngest was a 15-year-old kid. In 2014 in Lake County, there were over 20 overdoses and deaths recorded. 17 kids admitted to the use of heroin at Lake Forest High School. Overall, heroin use has increased nationwide over the last decade. Results from a study done by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that heroin-related deaths rose from 0.7 per 100,000 people to 2.7 per 100,000 people within three years (Time, 2015).

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse has become a huge problem. Four out of five users begin their drug use with prescription drugs. Use and abuse of prescriptions for pain is frequently the starting point. Many well-intentioned doctors over-prescribe pain meds, such as prescribing 30 days of oxycontin for a minor surgery. In 2014, the CDC reported that doctors wrote 259 million painkiller prescriptions in a single year, or, in other words, the equivalent of one bottle of pills for every American. From the early 2000s through the next decade, the number of people who used painkillers stronger than morphine increased from 175 to 37%.  50-70% of all people have a genetic predisposition to addiction. Once addicted, they look to the streets, as heroin is cheaper than prescription drugs and doesn’t require a prescription. Almost 50 Americans die each day from a prescription painkiller overdose (Time, 3/4/15). In 2013, approximately 16,235 people died from painkillers (Buzzfeed, 3/3/15).

Another issue is America’s love affair with amphetamines. In 2013, manufacturers of prescription stimulant drugs produced enough pills to provide more than two dozen 20 mg Adderall pills for every person in the U.S. Although the U.S. comprises less than 4.5% of the world’s population, we produce 70% of its legal amphetamines. Experts estimate that approximately 1/3 of the stimulants prescribed in the U.S. are diverted for illegal misuse (USA Today, 5-12-15). Just about any college student can tell you how easy it is to obtain Adderall without a prescription.

Prescription drug abuse causes other health issues. In fact, rates of Hepatitis C have risen dramatically. Almost 73% of Hepatitis C patients said they injected drugs, which can cause the virus to spread when needles are shared among different users (USA Today, 5-8-15).

Synthetic Drug Spike

Synthetic drugs are another issue of concern. It is estimated that 20% of drug users used synthetic drugs (Business Insider, 5-1-15). A number of synthetics come from China and are now mixed with heroin (Phentenal). This combination can be lethal. Synthetic marijuana is also known as spice. Spice packets are frequently sold in gas stations as incense or potpourri and labeled “not for human consumption.” Users smoke the contents, which are usually some kind of synthetic drug sprayed on plant leaves. In April of 2015, numerous calls were received around the country from people having an adverse reaction to spice. In New York alone, more than 160 people having such a reaction were seen in a nine-day period. Over an 18-day period, Alabama had 317 spice related emergency room visits. It is not uncommon for spice to contain LSD and/or PCP.

Flakka, made from the chemical alpha-PVP, is another recent addition to the illicit drug market. Flakka often causes users to display enormous strength, but also causes rage and hallucinations. Flakka was banned by the DEA in 2014. Flakka is a stimulant with mild hallucinatory effects. Even slightly more than the recommended dose can trigger severe adverse effects.

Most recently, Ecstasy containing PMMA, a synthetic stimulant drug, caused a number of deaths in Britain and is suspected of having also caused the death of people in Florida and Illinois. PMMA causes dangerous increases in body temperature and blood pressure. It has been described as the perfect overdose drug.

ARCpoint Labs of Chicago provides drug testing to the Greater Chicago area. Find your nearest location today.

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Why Are Drug Costs Increasing?

According to a Chicago Tribune article, in 2010 the average Rx cost for the 50 most popular generic medications was $13.14. By 2014, that average cost rose to $62.10, which was an astonishing 373% increase (Catamaran, a Schaumburg based PBM). A Pembroke Consulting analysis of federal data shows the price pharmacies paid for generics over past year has greatly increased and that about 11 generic drugs have more than doubled in acquisition costs for pharmacies in the past year. Overall, U.S. spending on prescription drugs rose 13%, to $374 billion in 2014. This was the largest percentage increase since 2001.

Understanding Prescription Cost Increasesprescription drug abuse

There are many different factors contributing to increases in costs. The increase in cost for prescriptions applies to both generics and non-generic medications. For example, pharmacies paid anywhere from 10% less to 60% more for carbamazepine, an epilepsy drug, depending upon the dose. This resulted in pharmacies increasing costs to balance out the amount they were now spending to buy the medications in the first place. Another cause for the increase in spending was due to demand for an “expensive new breakthrough hepatitis C treatment” (Business Insider, 4-14-15). Also contributing to the increased spend is demand for newer cancer and MS treatments, as well as price increases on branded medicines and the entry of a few new generic versions of big selling drugs.

Prescription drugs filled through Medicaid increased under the ACA at an overall rate of 17%. In those states with expanded Medicare eligibility under the ACA, the increase was 25%.

Some other practical factors include raw material shortages and a lack of market competition to lower prices. At times, drug manufacturers will discontinue a line because of other manufacturers, which results in pricing pressures. Manufacturers also feel pressure to specialize product lines and consolidate through M&A’s, which creates even more pricing power for remaining manufacturers.

Finally, as medicine advances and drugs become more expensive and difficult to imitate, fewer companies are willing to invest in making generic versions of brand name drugs that move off patent protection. The lack of generic drugs naturally results in higher drug prices.

Supporting Community Wellness

ARCpoint Labs of Elk Grove provides affordable and effective drug testing and wellness program services to the Chicago area. Call (847) 264-4677 to learn more.

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Children’s Allergies

An Increasing Problem

The rate of emergency visits and hospitalizations of children with severe food allergies nearly tripled in Illinois over the last five years, based on a Chicago Tribune article and study released by Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

ARCpoint labs of Chicago is dedicated to wellness in our community. As members of the Chicago Loop Alliance, we’ve recommended allergy and Alcat testing (food reactions) as a beginning source for determination of an individual’s risk for food and regional allergies.

The incidences of ER visit frequency increased across all ages and ethnicities studied. The study is important as it shows the impact food allergies are having in Illinois and other places.

Allergies are tied to genetics and the environment, which means that something has changed to cause such a drastic increase, according to Dr. Ruchi Gupta at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The children in the study experienced anaphylaxis, which presents itself in several symptoms, including difficult breathing, reduced blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and sometimes death. The symptoms of allergies can be masked by asthma. Therefore, it’s important to be sure that protocols are followed and that the at-risk child always has access to Benadryl, an EpiPen, and an inhaler.

What We KnowParent Children

The study included data from 1,893 ER visits for food induced anaphylaxia at about 200 Illinois hospitals over a 4-year span. The rate went from 6.3 per 100,000 children in 2008 to 17.2 per 100,000 children in 2012 for ER visits and hospital admissions. ER visits rose in that period by 8% at Lurie Children’s hospital. Other states have not done comparable studies over a 4-5 year period, so it is difficult to track comparable data.

Researchers have not been able to pinpoint why this rate has increased. Previous studies indicated that most affected children were white or from higher income families. The most recent study, however, showed increases in Hispanic, Asian, white, and black children. Hispanic children, previously the lowest group, had the biggest increase in food allergies, at a 44% average annual rise. Food allergies affect an estimated 8% children.

We don’t know whether or not it’s better to withhold peanuts from younger children who may be at risk for allergies. Under doctor supervision it may be better to give babies small amounts of peanuts, but this defies conventional thought, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Conventional thought, as stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that parents withhold peanuts from at-risk children.

For family attorneys, these protocols may come up not only in your own families but also in your practice as to what practices are best amongst parents who are in marital disputes and have at-risk children. Court orders on allergy testing and protocols might differ.

ARCpoint Labs can test children for allergies at our convenient locations or on site. Please call for more information or visit us at www.mylabtestchicago.com.  

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Thoughts on Personal Wellness

What is Wellness?

Wellness is personal. Wellness is something each and every one of us has to think about in our lives. We all want to live a long and healthy life with low stress, but we all tend to think about personal wellness in different ways. In my case, I tend to look at my own health relative to others in my age group. It’s a sobering idea to face that by my 50th high school reunion, about 25% of my class will have died. In order to avoid becoming part of that statistic, I look at my capacity to perform tasks such as work, exercise, and accomplishing other things in life that are important to me.

Defining Wellness for Different Groups

Recently, I was asked to analyze wellness programs for a client. Our team looks at costs, function, ROI, and all the other things that a consultant should look at, but, unfortunately, often what is truly important is left out of the equation: what wellness really means to us. Often, the subject is simply how to keep healthcare costs down.

Before I tell you what I think about the subject, I’d like to invite you to e-mail us about your personal concept of wellness. I’m sure this concept is very different to members of a football team than to an office worker, for example.

For a football team wellness is about conditioning, keeping body fat low, increasing speed, and keeping a healthy diet. In my football days, we were given steaks, no water at practice, lots of potatoes, and pie with ice cream. Obviously a few things have changed since then. For others, it’s a fat free diet, low sugar and carbs, aerobic exercise, and stress management programs like yoga. Some programs emphasize biometric markers with high cost lab panels.

Personal Wellness Idealspersonal wellness

When you define a wellness program, it’s personal, just like defining the ideal car. The thirty year old stock broker may define it as a sports car, while the hockey mom may want a mini van. My question is, what are the consistencies that should be in every wellness program, and do those factors help the general population achieve wellness?

In my view, these are some of the factors that we need:

1. Consistency. The program must run over a fairly stable population over a period of years.

2. Incentives. Achievable, incentivized goals are essential.

3. Education. The population needs to have a pathway to achieving the goals.

4. Defined goals. There must be an individual and aggregate goal by which to measure achievement. This is not only monetary (lower insurance rates), but also involves goals like eradication of diabetes and pre-diabetes.

5. Affordability. Time off of work to devote and promote wellness must be able to be sustained by the company in terms of cost.

6. Buy In. If the top level does not want to contribute to a healthy population, it’s likely to fail.

We all know that a well-balanced diet and exercise are good for us, yet our population becomes more unhealthy by the year. Drugs are ingested like candy (ever ask a kid what a “Skittles party” is?) and only 11% of diagnosed abusers are in treatment. High fructose corn syrup and glucose make for low cost foods only to be paid for on the back end by heart disease and other illnesses. People use excuses for why they don’t (“I don’t have time.”).

In order to figure out a wellness program that works for you, you must determine your goals and how you want to achieve them. By dedicating yourself to your own personal wellness and making it a priority in your life, you are probably able to create the best program of them all.

About Neil

Neil is a principal owner of ARCpoint Labs of Chicago, a company engaged in wellness and clinical programs, drug and alcohol testing. Neil has practiced law in Chicago and has consulted to clients for wellness benefits.

Contact ARCpoint Labs or visit us at www.mylabtestchicago.com for your wellness program evaluation.

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The Hidden Epidemic

In the Chicago Western suburbs in July, 2013, DuPage County saw 11 people fatally overdose on heroin. The youngest was a 15-year-old Johnny Dudek.

HeroinThe Heroin Highway

The “heroin highway” comes to the distribution centers of Chicago through I-88, the Reagan Expressway, from Mexico. “Mexican Brown” heroin is inexpensive and lethal – one and done. DuPage County, Illinois is on that highway.

Few Repercussions

The seller, Nolan McMahon received a slap on the wrist of a bit over 6 years in a plea deal with the prosecutors, considering time served. He may get two years from that depending on his prison record.

An Unexpected Crime Scene

This middle-class conservative area is like many suburbs of Chicago: they do not want the public to know about the disease. Schools do not want a reputation, nor do people want their housing values affected.

Until we face this openly, the situation will continue. I’ve written prior blogs about the hidden epidemic in Chicago because this is not just an inner city issue, as perceived by many.

Let Us Help

If you are a parent, teacher or or concerned relative you should know that ARCpoint Labs of Elk Grove Village and ARCpoint Labs of Chicago Loop can help. We can provide confidential drug screening services. We can conduct these tests without a doctor’s order and they can be done on a random basis. This helps to prevent drug usage or catch them at their earliest phase. Our tests can detect immediate drug usage and usage as far back as 3 months.  Please visit www.mylabtestchicago.com to learn more or call ARCpoint Labs of Elk Grove Village at (847) 264-4677 or ARCpoint Labs of Chicago Loop at (773) 644-5520.

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Your Neighbor’s Secret

Many people think of drug and alcohol in socioeconomic terms. The TV version is depicted as poor minorities on the South or West Sides of Chicago either using or distributing drugs. Consider two stories in the Local Tribune recently. The Local Tribune edition of which I’m speaking is published and distributed on Chicago’s trendy North Shore.

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ARCpoint Labs and Minnie Minoso When it Was a Game

Chicago White Sox and all of Chicago mourns the death of “Orestes” Minnie Minoso. (Funny that the papers never use his real name even though the announcers did in the 50’s. )

As you can read, before corked bats, before steroids and illegal performance enhancing drugs, players played for the love of the game. Minnie played in 5 decades of ball and was the first black Latino (Cuban) to play in the major leagues, and the first Afro American to play in Chicago.

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