Opioid Deaths Up but Prescriptions Down

By Scott LaFee

August 26, 2020 4 min read

Fatal opioid overdoses were up in 2019, reaching a record high of 70,980 deaths. That's worrisome because the pandemic threatens to make matters worse. But a new American Medical Association study reports that prescriptions of opioid drugs decreased 37% in 2019, the sixth year in a row. That works out to 154 million prescriptions in 2019 compared with 244 million in 2014.

Older Gun Owners, Fewer Suicides

New research shows that states that restrict handgun sales to those ages 21 and older may have lower suicide rates among adolescents.

Scientists looked at suicide data between 2001-2017 and found that each state that limited handgun sales to those 18 and older had an additional 344 suicides among 18- to 20-year-olds compared with states with a 21-and-over policy.

States that limited handguns to those 21 or older had roughly two fewer suicides per 100,000 adolescents in the 18-20 age group. Two states — Missouri and South Carolina — lowered the age limit for handgun purchases from 21 to 18 during the study period and saw an increase in adolescent suicide rates.

Body of Knowledge

On average, researchers say people remember approximately 5,000 faces, though some can recognize nearly 10,000 mugs from memory.

Get Me That, Stat!

Americans make up less than 5% of the world's population but one-quarter of global COVID-19 cases and deaths.


60: Percentage of parents polled who think it's better to open schools later when risk of getting COVID-19 is as low as possible.

75/51: Breakdown of that percentage based on parents of color versus white parents.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Doc Talk

Stream team: a group of urologists

Phobia of the Week

Achluophobia: fear of darkness

Best Medicine

A man suffered for months from chronic back pain and was eventually persuaded by a friend to go see a chiropractor. The man was skeptical. He didn't put much faith in the practice and was convinced the chiropractor could not help him. But, desperate for relief, he went.

After one treatment, his back felt much better.

"How do you feel about chiropractors now?" his friend asked.

"I stand corrected."


"Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings." — Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990)

Medical History

This week in 1962, the dangerous long-range side effects of DDT and other pesticides were the subject of a press conference question to President John F. Kennedy. In his reply, Kennedy acknowledged Rachel Carson's groundbreaking environmental book on the subject, "Silent Spring," and stated that the government was taking a closer look. Ten years later, DDT was banned in the U.S.

Medical Myths

You can find in old schoolbooks a diagram of the tongue with areas marked off for the various tastes: bitter across the back, sweet across the front, salty on the sides near the front, and sour on the sides near the back.

In fact, different regions of the tongue can detect sweet, sour, bitter and salty. There are also taste buds on the roof of the mouth and in the throat.

Curtain Calls

In 2017, the Palm Beach County medical examiner ruled that the death of Pahokee, Florida, resident John Henry Barrett, 77, was a homicide. Barrett died of sepsis, caused by a gunshot wound suffered 60 years earlier when Barrett was shot by a friend during a fight. Charges were not filed.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: dertrick at Pixabay

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