Health Highlights: March 28, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

View Substance Abuse as Chronic Disease, Doctors’ Group Says

Substance abuse should be regarded as a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment, and not viewed as a “moral disorder or character defect,” according to a new position paper from the American College of Physicians.

“Twenty-two million people need treatment and a large percentage of people aren’t getting treatment,” ACP President Dr. Nitin Damle told ABC News, citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control data. “We want to focus the spotlight on that.”

While 75 percent of people with other chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure receive treatment, only 18 percent of people with substance abuse disorders get treatment, according to CDC statistics.

When it comes to drug addiction, there needs to be a shift in focus from punishment to treatment, the ACP paper urges. It also calls for tighter controls on opioid painkiller prescriptions, more options for patients to receive mental health treatment, and increased training for medical professional on how to deal with substance abuse, ABC News reported.

The paper also suggested policies to offer non-violent drug offenders the option to receive treatment and reduced prison sentences for possession.

“We need to have more treatment programs and we need to have more funding in this area,” Damle told ABC News. “It’s a heavy societal burden it really endangers families and not just individuals.”

Doctors can make a major contribution in the fight against the substance abuse epidemic in the U.S. by limiting the amount of opioids they prescribe, checking databases to ensure patients aren’t getting opioid drugs from other doctors, and taking additional courses on substance abuse so they can provide better treatment, Damle suggested.

About 91 people die from opioid overdoses every day in the U.S., according to the CDC, and about 52,000 died from drug overdoses in 2015, ABC News reported.

The ACP paper is “welcome news,” Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, said.

“There is a huge gap between the need for these services and their delivery,” he told ABC News. “Millions of Americans need treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem yet don’t receive.”

The paper’s emphasis on treatment for substance addiction rather than punishment is crucial.

“When it comes to opioids, we should be talking about addiction, not abuse,” he said. “Addiction is a disease, abuse is a behavior,” Alexander said.


Florida Residents Urged to Take Anti-Mosquito Measures

As the rainy season approaches, Florida officials are urging residents to take anti-mosquito measures in order to reduce the risk of Zika infection.

“Everybody’s got to remember to do their own precautions — no standing water, wear protective clothing, use bug repellant,” Gov. Rick Scott said at a community roundtable on Monday at the Department of Health in Miami, National Public Radio reported.

“If you travel outside the country to an area that has Zika, you know, take precautions for the next three or four weeks,” he added.

So far this year, there have been 18 travel-related Zika cases in Broward and Miami Dade counties, including non-Florida residents who were diagnosed in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Last year, there were 525 known travel-related cases in those counties, NPR reported.

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