Popular Anxiety Drugs Have Dangerous Consequences


Benzos are dangerous, especially mixed with other sedatives.

Many people are uninformed about the risks of popular anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium, especially when mixed with other sedatives.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February of an overdose from mixing heroin, cocaine and benzodiazepines, or benzos. Benzos, which are mild tranquilizers, first appeared in the 1950s and ‘60s and quickly became a hit. They claimed to soothe overwhelmed, edgy mothers, and were nicknamed “mother’s little helper.” Today Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan remain on the market for treatment of anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia.

Many doctors say they don’t go a day without seeing somebody who is addicted to them.

15 years ago, most detox patients were alcoholics and the rest were addicted to drugs. Now, 90 percent of these patients are drug addicts whose drug of choice is often a combination of opiates and benzos. Both of these drugs slow respiration and are an extremely dangerous combination. These drugs used together make the other stronger, and are extremely dangerous.

The drugs take away any anxiety, worry, and seemingly all of life’s troubles, numbing a person from becoming troubled, or bothered, by anything. It is very easy to become instantly addicted to them, and to the temporary feeling of contentment they induce.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the combination of benzos and opioid-related deaths contributes to about 30 percent of opioid-related deaths.

Dr. Mark Publicker, an addiction specialist with the Mercy Recovery Center in Westbrook, Maine, believes the risks associated with benzos is possibly overshadowed by the prescription opioid epidemic. Many people are unaware of how harmful they really are.

Initially thought to be free of negative effects, benzos are now known to carry risks of dependence, withdraw and cognitive effects.

Long term use can cause impairment in several cognitive domains: visuospatial ability, speed of processing, and verbal learning. Some reject this, however, claiming these symptoms are only temporary and can be attributed to sedation or inattention or peak plasma levels.

Studies were conducted around this debate and found that cognitive dysfunction did occur in patients treated long term with benzodiazepines. Even though this impairment did improve upon ceasing to take benzos, patients did not return to their original levels of functioning in the brain.

Patients should be advised of the dangers and effects associated with these drugs and the dangerous, deadly effects of combining them. Though daily functioning may not seem significant when using them, long term effects are likely, and you should be informed. Do your research and consult trusted physicians for more information. Be your own AdvoKAYte!


Walgreen’s Illegally Distributes Controlled Substances

Is Walgreen,s Pharmacy really “at the Corner of Happy and Healthy”, like their motto claims? Maybe not…


The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) caught Walgreen’s Pharmacy red-handed.  Allegations claim they were knowingly and  illegally distributing controlled substances to known abusers and drug dealers. The DEA found an “unprecedented” number of record-keeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act.

Walgreen’s agreed to an $80 million settlement to put the matter to rest.  Part of the deal required Walgreen’s to publicly admit that it had failed to comply with its responsibilities as a DEA registrant. Although they claim they do all they can to stop this activity, there is evidence it is still occurring, even after the large sum of money they were required to pay. According to a recent blog article on bytegeist.com, Walgreen’s is more concerned with making a dollar than the health of its customers.

How Does This Effect Me? 

I have written many times about the problem of prescription drug addiction in America. It is crucial to shut down the supply chains if this problem is ever going to be eliminated. Unlike illicit drugs,  prescription drug dealers aren’t standing on dimly lit street corners in the rough areas of town. To the contrary, much of the supply comes from doctors, pharmacies and clinics who are licensed to distribute  controlled substances. With this license, however, comes the responsibility of complying with the law. Unfortunately, many do not comply, and this effects all of us.

Controlled substances may only be prescribed and dispensed for a legitimate medical purpose. When this fundamental premise isn’t followed, illegal distribution and abuse emerge. Narcotics find their way into the hands of addicts and dealers who sell them illegally on the black market. Sadly, the prescription drug black market makes its way into schools and homes, and destroys lives and families. 

Kudos to the Drug Enforcement Agency for getting the attention of one national pharmaceutical chain. Let’s hope it sends a loud message to the others. We all must do our part, as they are, to stop this epidemic in America.


FDA Panel Considers Tightening Rules on Hydrocodone Prescriptions

 According to recent statistics, the United States consumes 99 percent of all Hydrocodone in the world, yet the United States is merely 4.5 percent of the world’s population.  In 2010, an estimated 131.2 million prescriptions were written for Hydrocodone, making it the most prescribed drug in the United States.  Hydrocodone is a highly addictive painkiller and has been blamed on overdoses and deaths.

Prescription Painkiller Addiction is an Epidemic in the United States
Abuse of prescription painkillers in the United States is an epidemic.  Reports of pharmacies being robbed for Hydrocodone and other strong narcotic painkillers are all too commonplace.  Now the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is asking for help from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to tighten regulations and make it more difficult to get prescription drugs containing Hydrocodone.  
“If Hydrocodone has more restrictive manners tied to it, it could help reduce the abuse potential,” says Special Agent Robert Hill of the DEA Pharmaceutical Investigations Section.
FDA Advisory Panel Could Mandate Tighter Restrictions on Hydrocodone
In response, the FDA convened an advisory panel for a two-day meeting on Thursday, January 24, 2013.  The panel is to consider tighter regulations for the prescribing of drugs and other products that contain Hydrocodone.  One of the proposed regulations would limit prescriptions of pills and cough syrups containing Hydrocodone to a 90-day supply.  Currently, these products are available to be filled with five refills within six months.  The advisory panel will also consider moving Hydrocodone-combination products like Vicodin up from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, which is more highly regulated.  Drugs currently in Schedule II include OxyContin and pure Hydrocodone.
Advocates of tighter restrictions on Hydrocodone believe that moving Hydrocodone-combination drugs to a Schedule II classification will make the drugs less available.  A similar measure was attempted in 2012 with a proposed amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), but lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies fought against the amendment, and ultimately it was defeated.
Big Pharma Looks to Cash-in on Hydrocodone with New Drugs
Another FDA panel recently voted against approving Zohydro, an extended-release drug that contains pure Hydrocodone.  Manufactured by Zogenix Inc., the new painkiller is ten times more powerful than Vicodin and highly addictive.  Although the FDA panel found that the new drug met FDA standards for safety and efficacy, it voted against approval of the drug based on its high potential for addiction.  The FDA will consider the panel’s findings, but may still approve Zohydro in March when it comes up for consideration.
For more information about Hydrocodone and prescription drug addiction, read:

Babies Born addicted to Pain Killers

Babies born addicted to prescription pain killers.

Kate Snow reports 


A great news piece aired on July 5, 2012 concerning the alarming rate of babies who are born addicted to pain killers. Please watch this to understand one of the tragic consequences of the prescription drug epidemic we have in the U.S. The effects are far reaching. The long term consequences on these children is not yet known. 

I welcome your comments and opinions on what can be done to reverse this terrible epidemic which has such far reaching consequences for our citizens and our country.


Big Pharma’s Marketing of Painkillers Launches Senate Probe

Accidental overdosing on prescription drugs now kills more people in some states than car accidents.  Now, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is investigating the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies that make highly addictive narcotic painkillers.

The Senate Finance Committee launched the investigation to help ensure consumers are not being misled into thinking that these opioid painkillers are completely safe. 

“Overdoses on narcotic painkillers have become epidemic, and it’s becoming clear that patients aren’t getting a full and clear picture of the risks posed by their medications,” said Senator Max Baucus, who along with Senator Charles E. Grassley has launched the investigation.

Non-Profits Promote Pain Drugs

Pain advocacy organizations have popped up in the past decade, including groups like the American Pain Foundation, which received nearly 90 percent of its funding in 2010 from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.  These groups highlight the benefits of opioid painkillers and downplay the risks, which include addiction.

The American Pain Foundation has decided to dissolve amid the allegations that it has illegally marketed painkillers. However, the group has cited the decision to dissolve based on operational and financial problems.

The Senate investigation comes just months after Purdue Pharma (maker of the highly addictive Oxycontin) announced plans to release a painkiller 10 times stronger than Vicodin.  The painkiller contains pure hydrocodone, which doctors believe will lead to more accidental overdoses.

Three pharmaceutical companies are being investigated in the Senate probe, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson.  Five different pain support groups are also being investigated, including the American Pain Foundation, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, the Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group, and the Center for Practical Bioethics.

Even the Joint Commission, a nonprofit hospital accreditation group, is being investigated for its partnership with Purdue Pharma.  The group not only brought pain management to hospitals’ attention as a national priority in 2001, but also distributed to those hospitals pain education materials promoting Oxycontin.  The group already pled guilty in 2007 to criminal charges that it understated the risk of addiction with Oxycontin.

Experts Voice Concern about Painkiller Addiction

Narcotic painkillers are currently the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, despite their classification as highly addictive substances akin to illegal drugs.

Sales of painkillers have risen nearly 300 percent since 1999, and in proportion, the number of deaths due to painkiller overdoses has also risen.  Prescription painkillers are now available even to high school students who have held “pill parties” in which they bring different medications they find around their homes, including painkillers, and take pills without knowing what those pills are.

Even newborns are being born addicted to painkillers.  The Journal of the American Medical Association recently released a report finding that newborns are being born with drug withdrawal at a rate five times that of levels in 2000.

Pain awareness groups have “helped usher in an epidemic that’s killed 100,000 people by promoting aggressive use of opioids.  What makes this especially disturbing is that despite overwhelming evidence that their effort created a public health crisis, they’re continuing to minimize the risk of addiction,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York.

Since the 1990s, big pharma has marketed these painkillers to more groups of people.  Before, the pills were largely used to help cancer patients, but companies like Purdue Pharma have sold doctors and consumers on broader uses for the pills, including arthritis and back pain.  Senators Baucus and Grassley noted “There is growing evidence pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and market opioids may be responsible, at least in part, for this evidence by promoting misleading information.”

While these painkillers do have their uses in some patients, the overprescribing of these pills is clearly out of control.  Oftentimes, doctors prescribe the pills without fully explaining to the patient the risk of addiction and overdose.  Critics have said that many doctors need to be retrained on when it’s appropriate to prescribe narcotic painkillers.

I will continue to post updates about this and other pill mill news.  For the latest information on prescription painkillers and pill mills, subscribe to my blog.


Senator Warns FDA about New, Stronger Painkillers

New York Senator Charles Schumer is warning the FDA that approving a new painkiller containing pure hydrocodone could have disastrous consequences across the nation. Painkillers that contain hydrocodone currently on the market are known to be highly addictive and have caused fatal overdoses.

New York Senator Charles Schumer has seen the effects of prescription drug addiction in his state and has vowed to fight it.  He warns that a new painkiller promising to be 10 times stronger than Vicodin could lead to more violent and deadly drug store robberies.

In June 2011, New York resident David Laffer was charged with robbing a Long Island drug store of more than 10,000 highly addictive prescription painkillers and killing four people in the pharmacy.  He and his wife had been doctor shopping before the robbery in an effort to get prescription pain pills like hydrocodone, which is highly addictive.

Nationwide, more than 1,800 pharmacies have been robbed in the past three years alone.  Long Island alone has experienced a 125 percent increase drug store robberies.

“It’s tremendously concerning that at the same time policymakers and law enforcement professionals are waging a war on the growing prescription drug crisis, new super-drugs could well be on their way, flooding the market.  The FDA needs to grab the reins and slow down the stampede to introduce these powerful narcotics” Senator Schumer said.

The new painkillers, which contain pure hydrocodone, could come onto the market as early as 2013, with big pharmaceutical companies looking to cash in on the $10 billion prescription painkiller market.  At present, hydrocodone is classified as a strictly controlled Schedule II drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. 

Products that contain hydrocodone and another painkiller like acetaminophen fall into Schedule III, which is less strictly controlled.  Some experts argue that because of this, highly addictive hydrocodone has been given to more patients, which has increased abuse of the drug and overdose rates in the United States.

A prescription painkiller that contains pure hydrocodone could lead to more accidental overdoses, leading to more emergency room visits.  Experts say that already thin hospital emergency room resources could become even more strained if this new drug is allowed on the market.  In 2008 alone, emergency room visits related to hydrocodone abuse totaled more than 86,000, up more than 400 percent from 2000 when an estimated 19,000 visits were recorded.

To learn more about prescription drug addiction, read my article “America’s Growing Addiction” at www.vanweylaw.com


A Tribute to Ken & Esther Scarborough

The Scarborough family of Kountze, Texas, has been instrumental in the fight against prescription drug addiction. After their son died from a prescription drug overdose, the Scarboroughs realized the need to help other families who had lost a loved one.

Far too many families have been devastated by a loved one’s addiction to prescription drugs. Unlike the images we conjure up when we think of a typical drug addict, the faces of prescription drug addiction are the faces of ordinary Americans. One of the casualties of prescription drug addiction was Christopher Scarborough, the 25 year-old son of Ken and Esther Scarborough of Kountze, Texas.

I came to know the Scarboroughs when I represented them in a legal case, which sought to hold the negligent parties accountable for Christopher’s death and to raise awareness about these pill mills, which often masquerade as pain management clinics. In the lawsuit, we alleged that the healthcare providers and clinic owners were nothing more than “drug dealers” who were trying to pass off their “pill mill” as a legitimate pain management clinic.

When Christopher went to this walk-in “pain management clinic,” he was prescribed a cocktail of more than 300 highly addictive narcotic pills, without even receiving an exam or seeing a doctor. Shortly thereafter, Christopher tragically died of an accidental overdose.

Rather than dwell on their son’s heartbreaking death, the Scarboroughs have chosen to help other families who have lost loved ones to prescription drug addiction and accidental overdose.

Since their son’s death, the Scarboroughs have worked every day to fight against the prescription drug epidemic in their son’s name. In 2009, they founded Parents Against Prescription Drug Abuse (PAPDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. They have also testified before the Texas Senate, worked to pass legislation to regulate the so-called pain clinics, given countless talks, and comforted other parents who have also lost their children to prescription drug overdoses.

The Scarboroughs need your help to continue their fight. You can help by making a tax deductible contribution to PAPDA at www.papda.net. Your contribution, no matter how slight, will help Ken and Esther keep fighting every day to prevent the reckless prescribing of narcotics from claiming another innocent life.


Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths on the Rise

Deaths due to prescription drug overdose have nearly tripled within the past 10 years. Experts say that irresponsible doctors are to blame for the abuse of highly addictive prescription painkillers.

(Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report detailing that as many as 40 Americans die each day from overdosing on prescription painkillers.  That amounts to nearly 15,000 deaths each year.

Deaths due to prescription overdose are now more common than deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined.  And the problem does not look like it will be ending anytime soon.  Prescription painkiller overdose deaths have increased three times over within the past decade.

80% of the World’s Painkillers are Taken in the U.S.

Director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, blames irresponsible doctors for the uptick in prescription painkiller abuse.  He and other CDC experts have estimated that in 2010 enough painkillers were prescribed to supply every American adult with a one-month supply.

More than 600,000 doctors are licensed to prescribe opiate-based painkillers.  Vicodin is one of the most popular prescription painkillers, because it is not as strictly regulated as its counterparts, making it easier for doctors to prescribe.  In fact, 99 percent of the entire world’s supply of Vicodin is used by patients in the United States.

Accidental Overdoses from Prescription Painkillers Now Kill More People than Car Accidents in 17 States

The overprescribing of prescription painkillers is not only causing death, it is also costing an estimated $72.5 billion.  And, three of the hardest hit states are Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida.

The federal government has proposed expanding statewide prescription drug monitoring programs to monitor electronically the number of painkillers prescribed in each state.  But critics say these programs will not work alone.  Patients need to be educated about the dangers of abusing and overdosing on prescription painkillers.

National Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske says doctors need to be retrained on writing prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers.  He adds that people with moderate pain, such as back pain, should not be prescribed these highly addictive painkillers.

To learn more about America’s epidemic of prescription drug addiction, read my article “America’s Growing Addiction” at www.vanweylaw.com.


1 in 10 Americans Takes an Anti-Depressant

The number of Americans taking an anti-depressant has increased nearly 400 percent over the past 10 years. Experts say this is due to more direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies and to patients going to their primary care doctors for help with depression.

(Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Over the past 10 years, anti-depressant use in the United States has risen a staggering 400 percent.  According to findings recently released by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 11 percent of Americans ages 12 and older are taking an anti-depressant, and at least 8 percent of them are doing so without exhibiting depressive symptoms.

The findings from the study found that females were more than two and a half times more likely to take anti-depressants as males.  This is especially worrisome, because some anti-depressants are known to cause serious birth defectsA quarter of all women ages 40 to 59 are currently taking anti-depressants.

Perhaps more alarming than the statistics, is the fact that only a third of people taking anti-depressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.  Instead, patients are seeking out help from their primary care physicians for treatment.  There is growing concern that primary care doctors are not as well-informed about the risks of taking anti-depressants.

Despite the potential lack of knowledge by the prescribing doctor, anti-depressants have skyrocketed to become the second most prescribed drug in the United States, second only to cholesterol-lowering pills, according to IMS Health.

In 2010 alone, 255 million prescriptions were dispensed for anti-depressants in the United States.  Many of these drugs are being prescribed for off-label uses, such as for the treatment of anxiety, neurological pain, fibromyalgia, sleep problems, and menopausal hot flashes.

More recently, popular anti-depressant drug Cymbalta was approved by the FDA for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.  Since being approved initially in 2004, Cymbalta has been used by 30 million people.

Before being cleared, critics worried that approval would bring more direct-to-consumer advertisements, convincing Americans that drugs like Cymbalta are a major breakthrough not only for the treatment of depression, but also for chronic pain.

While the impact of these antidepressant advertisements has yet to be fully determined, it seems that Americans are turning to anti-depressants to resolve symptoms associated with other ailments, not just depression.


Prescription Drug Abuse Costs Medicare $148 Million

A recent government report shows that prescription drug abuse by elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries cost the U.S. government approximately $148 million in 2008, leading some to call for tighter controls on the program.

(Image: markuso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in seniors and the disabled who rely on Medicare Part D to get their prescriptions. A report issued by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carpenter, along with senior Republican Scott Brown, found that nearly 170,000 people enrolled in the program went “doctor shopping” for powerful pain killers like oxycodone and hydrocodone.

In terms of prescription drug abuse, “doctor shopping” is where patients go to different doctors to get multiple prescriptions. The report found that some patients had gone to at least five doctors for prescriptions of drugs that are often abused. In all, these patients accounted for 1.8 percent of the total number of patients enrolled in the program.

Senator Scott Brown called the program “taxpayer-funded drug dealing,” and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called for more strict control of the program to prevent Medicare fraud.

Why Older Patients are more at Risk

Today, older patients are being prescribed more long-term prescriptions and as many as 30 pills a day, which can lead to unintentional misuse of prescription drugs. For many seniors, the difficulty lies in simply being able to keep track of the pills and dosages they are taking.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Americans ages 65 and older account for 13 percent of the population, but are prescribed one-third of all medicines prescribed in the United States. Combine their multiple prescriptions with over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, and the risk that they will have negative drug interactions soars.

Additionally, some seniors take medications that are not medically necessary or use medications for conditions that the medications were not originally prescribed. Seniors also tend to self-medicate for depression.

Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are especially dangerous for seniors because they are more likely to feel stronger effects from the drugs than are younger people. These drugs can lead to falls and motor vehicle accidents for seniors, which can cause dangerous hip and thigh fractures.

Despite the risks these medicines pose, the government is expected to expand Medicare’s $62 billion drug program to cover benzodiazepines and other sedatives, both of which are commonly abused drugs.

To learn more about prescription drug abuse in the United States, read my article entitled “America’s Growing Addiction,” available at www.vanweylaw.com.