Thursday, May 21, 2009

Prescritpion Drug Abuse

Some highlights from the National Prescription Drug Threat Assessment 2009:

When abused, not only are these drugs dangerous in their own right, they often lead to the use of harder drugs, with life-altering consequences.

Diversion and abuse of prescription drugs are a threat to our public health and safety--similar to the threat posed by illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine," said Director Kerlikowske. "In 2006, the last year for which data are available, drug-induced deaths in the United States exceeded firearm-injury deaths and ranked second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of accidental death.

Friends or relatives are the primary sources for CPDs [controlled prescription drugs] among most abusers…Teenagers find diverted CPDs readily available.

CPD abuse is most prevalent among young adults.

This certainly coincides with our experience with increasing numbers of prescription drug deaths that we rule accidental, i.e. not suicide, just folks using, overusing and abusing prescription drugs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One death affects so many

I was sent a copy of an article that appeared in a local paper (I don’t have a link). The article title and the fact that I have a couple of pre-prom events later this week got me thinking and writing.

The article’s title (actually a guest essay/opinion) was “A child’s death is just one effect of underage drinking” and it covers other effects of alcohol on adolescents similar to stuff I have written about before. The tangent my brain went off on, however, was the effect the death had on those connected to the teen who dies and/or the people that are affected by the death.

The teen that died and the potential lost. What or who could they have affected through their life? What relationships never formed? What discoveries would have been made? That potential never realized, at what cost and to what effect?

The death will have deep and permanent effects on the teen’s family and friends. It will have effects on everyone that those folks relate to and come into contact with, likely throughout their lives. There will be effects even on folks only peripherally “related” to the teen that dies. Effects on others at their school who may not have known them, but hear of the death, folks at their church, like a pebble into water the waves propagate outward.

Folks previously affected by death may have ‘old wounds’ reopened or at least disturbed, even folks who may just hear about it in the news. Again propagating waves.

Those that respond to the scene of the death and those that may work to save them pre-hospital and in the ER will be affected. We all like to think we are stoic and unaffected, but these deaths affect even the most seasoned.

For others injured in the incident, each would have their own cascade of affected folks. Pebbles into the water.

Lastly, you always have to have an “other” category.

One death affects so many.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Can driving distracted = reckless homicide?

There was apparently a report on the radio earlier today (I didn’t hear it, but one of my employees let me know) referring to a recent death in our county. I had a bit about it earlier this week in a post. There is also a listener poll on the WGN website pertaining to the death asking if a death caused by a distracted driver should be pursued as reckless homicide? From what I heard, our State’s Attorney has decided “no”, at least in this case.

We have not yet closed our investigation and ruled on the manner of this woman’s death, but I think we are leaning toward (reckless) homicide.

Is driving distracted by eating or texting or doing your nails really any different than being distracted by the effects of alcohol?

Yes I know, and truly believe, that the driver’s self punishment is going to be greater than anything the court system could mete out, but that is no reason to not prosecute this case as you would any other similar case. If it is wrong, it is wrong. If you pursue it in some, you should pursue it in all. Reckless homicide is not restricted to cases in which intoxication is demonstrated.

Added: Interesting fact from an article I just came across

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that simple distractions - talking on a cell phone, reaching for something on the floor, looking too long at something on the side of the road - caused 80 percent of the crashes and 65 percent of the near-crashes observed.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Coroner: Killer Heroin Isn’t From Mexico

I got in a discussion (argument is just a bit too strong) with an Associated Press reporter yesterday (Hi, Sophia). It became rapidly apparent that she had already written her article and wanted only quotes and information that went along with what she had decided the story was.

She called to ask about the recent increase in heroin deaths that has occurred here in Lake County, an increase that I have attributed to (and demonstrated with testing) an increase in purity or strength of our heroin on the street. She asked the usual questions about the ages of the victims, other demographic information, and about them dying nearly instantly upon injecting. It all seemed to be going along fine as fact finding until she asked where I thought the heroin was coming from.

I told her that based on the fact that it is white heroin that it comes from Colombia or Asia (and that in turn based on Department of Justice information). She then asked about heroin from Mexico. I explained that Mexican heroin is either brown or black and not white. She pushed the Mexican source theory, “because of all the violence at the border”. I explained that while some of the Colombian heroin may come through Mexico; the stuff we are seeing is not Mexican in origin. “It has to be”, she replied. I explained that most Colombian and Asian heroin does not come through Mexico, but directly into the US in other ways. Violence or not, her preconceived notions or not, the heroin on our “streets” is not Mexican. She quickly ended the interview at that point, asking if there was anyone else she could talk to in the County, undoubtedly looking for someone to support her incorrect thoughts on the matter.

So no matter what she ultimately reports, I want you to know that white heroin (the predominant type used east of the Mississippi) is from Colombia and, in ever growing amounts, from Southwest and Southeast Asia. The black tar and brown powder stuff more used to the west is the stuff from Mexico.

File under: fun facts to know and tell.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Coroner and Parent Trying to Forestall Death Isn't Easy

A death occurred over the weekend, actually several occurred, but I am writing about just one of them.

A woman riding/driving a motorcycle died after being hit from behind by a car. I talked to reporters and gave them part of the story: the motorcyclist had stopped at a yellow light, the driver of the car was driving distracted (I would not give any details as to what that entailed) and did not stop for the yellow light, striking the motorcycle. The motorcyclist was thrown from her cycle and was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after the crash.

The next reporter to call, called after seeing the story on the website of the first reporter’s newspaper. He said he read in the posted article that the driver of the car was doing her nails and asked if that was indeed the case. Apparently, the first reporter got the story from law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation of the case.

Subsequent newspaper stories were not too careful with attribution of that part of the story, so many have assumed it came from me. Oh well, what can you do.

Beyond that, I really wanted to write about another aspect of the whole deal. After the call from the second reporter (he was only one of four reporters I talked to on Sunday about the death) I talked with my 18 year old daughter about the death, always trying to impress upon her to make good choices and not take chances. I mentioned that the story was up on the Internet about the distracted driver in the crash. My daughter’s response was that she sure wasn’t going to do her nails while driving again.

I wouldn’t have guessed that she would ever do such a thing, but apparently so. As a parent it is difficult to think of all the things you need to warn your children about. That is an incredibly difficult job.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine flu perspective

Swine flu. Be afraid, be very afraid. People are fearful and demanding that something be done. Government officials are clamoring to do something. Wait, that was from news reports in February of 1976.

The swine flu has been here before. It was here in 1918-19 and again in 1976. It is not new. It cannot be caught from pork food items. Yes, it can kill, but so does the more common flu. The post-WWI swine flu killed 500,000 in the U.S. (and recent evidence points to it having started here). The outbreak in 1976 killed one (however the hurriedly set-up vaccine program killed and debilitated hundreds). Our usual seasonal flu kills about 36,000 each year. We need to keep this swine flu in perspective. Don't panic, no matter how the media frenzy pushes you. Yes, even one death is too many, but unfortunately death happens and not all of them can be prevented.

Wash your hands and do the things you usually do to not catch the usual seasonal flu -- eat well, drink plenty of fluids, get rest -- all bolster your immune system.

Will we have a replay of "the Great Plague," as the 1918 pandemic was called? Not likely. Times have changed. Living conditions have improved. Sanitary conditions have improved. Underlying health status has improved. Healthcare has improved.

Be aware, but don't be swept away.