Health Highlights: May 7, 2019

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

Sharp Rise in Opioid Thefts by U.S. Health Care Workers: Report

The number of legally prescribed opioid pain drugs stolen by health care workers in the United States rose 126% between 2017 and 2018, a new report says.

It said that 34% of these so-called “opioid diversion” incidents happened at hospitals or medical centers, followed by private practices, long-term care facilities and pharmacies, and that doctors and nurses were the culprits 67% of the time, CBS News reported.

A particular drug was identified in only 77% of cases, but those most likely to be stolen were Oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, according to the report from data firm Prontenus.

The findings are likely the “tip of the iceberg,” Kira Caban of Protenus, told CBS News.

Only a fraction of opioid diversions are discovered because an addict admits to the behavior or a patient who was supposed to receive the drugs gets sick, Caban explained.

An Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit was created by the Department of Justice to tackle the problem, but it’s operational in less than a third of the U.S., CBS News reported.

Dr. Stephen Loyd of Tennessee diverted opioids away from his patients for three and a half years, but has been clean for 15 years.

“There was no requirements on what happened to those pills. They could go down the toilet or they could go in my pocket,” he told CBS News.

People in the health care industry are at high risk of opioid abuse, said Loyd, who was the director of Tennessee’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services division before running a rehab facility in Murfreesboro.

“They’ve got high stress jobs. A lot of them, like myself, have workaholism. And not only that, you have access,” Loyd told CBS News.

He urged addicted health care workers to admit they need help.


Denver Voters to Decide on ‘Magic Mushroom’ Decriminalization

Denver voters will decide Tuesday whether the city becomes the first in the United States to decriminalize the use of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”

The city’s mayor and district attorney oppose the citizen-led initiative, but there’s little organized opposition to the proposal, the Associated Press reported.

A campaign in California to decriminalize psilocybin did not qualify for the statewide ballot in 2018.

In Oregon, organizers are trying to get enough support to have a similar initiative voted on in 2020, the AP reported.


U.S. Measles Cases Reach 764

At least 60 more measles cases have been reported in the United States, bringing the total so far this year to 764, health officials said Monday.

Just a few months into 2019, the number of measles cases is already the most in the United States since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year, the Associated Press reported.

So far this year, 23 states have reported measles cases. Pennsylvania is the latest to do so.

New York is grappling with the largest outbreak in the country. The new cases reported last week included 41 in New York City and 11 in nearby Rockland County. Most cases involved unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities, the AP reported.