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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Prince and the opioid epidemic: 06/20/2016

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

The recent news that rock musician-Prince died from an accidental, self-administered overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, is a sad reminder of the degree of current opioid abuse in the U.S.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports more than two million Americans suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid medications, which are pain killers.

PBS's Frontline recently reported deaths from opioid painkillers jumped from about 4,000 in 1999 to almost 19,000 in 2014. Frontline adds almost half the deaths from drug overdoses in 2014 were from opioid abuse.

In a telling comparison, Frontline notes about 2,000 Americans died from a heroin overdose in 1999 and about 10,600 died from a heroin overdose in 2014. NIDA adds more Americans currently die from overdoses of prescription opioids than from all other drugs combined.

Another illuminating statistic finds the number of Americans who die from drug overdoses now far exceeds annual fatalities from motor vehicle accidents. About 47,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2014, while about 29,000 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents.

The expanse of the opioid problem is best suggested by NIDA, which reports 207 million opioid prescriptions were written to help patients manage pain in 2013.

NIDA refers to the recent increases in prescriptions, overdose deaths, and use as (and we quote): 'the prescription opioid overdose epidemic' (end of quote). Most of the U.S. news media also now routinely report opioid abuse and addiction as a national epidemic. Frontline suggests the deaths, health risks, and family disruptions caused by current opioid abuse may be the worst drug crisis in American history.

Following the autopsy, news reports widely suggested Prince began taking fentanyl for debilitating hip pain. Most news reports also noted Prince (whose real name was Prince Rogers Nelson) did not have a prior record or reputation for substance abuse.

Prince won seven Grammys and uniquely wrote, produced recorded, and often played many (if not all) of the instruments in his more than three dozen discs. The singer, dancer, song writer, and musician's unexpected death at age 57 resulted in a public vigil outside of his Minneapolis area home and numerous tributes from musicians, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, and the U.S Senate.

Poignantly, MedlinePlus.gov reports fentanyl should be used only to treat significant cancer pain for adults after age 18 - and it should not be used to treat other medical conditions. In fact, MedlinePlus.gov specifically warns against fentanyl's use for the pain from an injury, such as the debilitating hip pain that reportedly bothered Prince.

You can find information about fentanyl and most prescription opioids within the 'drugs and supplements' section, which is accessible at the top of MedlinePlus.gov's home page.

In addition, a link to the information from NIDA about the abuse of prescription medications and opioids is available within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's prescription drug abuse health topic page.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides information about treatments for opioid addition in the 'treatments and therapies' section of MedlinePlus.gov's prescription drug abuse health topic page. Other information about fentanyl (from NIDA) is available within the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's prescription drug abuse health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's prescription drug abuse health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available within the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about prescription drug abuse as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's prescription drug abuse health topic page, please type 'prescription drug abuse' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'prescription drug abuse (National Library of Medicine).'

We are sorry to lose Prince and salute his diverse fans. We hope Prince's memory may be honored by finding innovative ways to prevent prescription opioid addiction and provide better pain relief.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!