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Opioid addiction still a major health threat

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Addictions to opioids such as heroin, morphine and prescription pain relievers continues to affect people from all demographics. According to the World Drug Report 2012 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and United National Office on Drugs and Crime, between 26 and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide.

Opioids can lead to physical dependence and possible addiction, which is why legal versions of opioids are carefully monitored and prescribed. Opioid addiction can cause long-term changes to the biological structures of the brain and affect brain function, according to the Association of American Physicians.

Opioid abuse is on the rise. A 2013 study titled “Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990-2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013” and published in the Lancet found that use disorders resulted in 51,000 deaths worldwide in 2013, up from 18,000 deaths in 1990. While there’s no single underlying cause for this increase in opioid abuse, some say the greater number of prescriptions written for medications such as codeine, oxycodone and similar pain relief pills, and greater social acceptability of these drugs have contributed to the spike in opioid-related deaths.

Data from IMS Health’s National Prescription Audit indicates that, in the United States, the number of prescriptions for opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013.

Opioids are highly addictive because they can produce a sense of well-being and euphoria in addition to the pain-blocking benefits for which they are designed. The National Institutes of Health says opioids act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain; however, they can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion and nausea. Many opioid abusers develop a tolerance over time, requiring them to use more and more of the medication to reach the same level of efficacy.

When individuals addicted to opioids can no longer gain access to prescription pills, many turn to illegal means to satisfy their addictions and cravings. Many simply segue to heroin, which is cheaper and, in some communities, easier to obtain than prescription opioids. Many communities have seen heroin use spike considerably in recent years. Heroin is even more dangerous because of the transmission of other diseases through the sharing of intravenous syringes.

Opioid abuse is a problem affecting communities across North America. Shedding light on the epidemic can inspire people to support legislation designed to combat opioid abuse and addiction and prevent future generations from succumbing to opioid addiction.

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Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away

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Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away

(BPT) – Food and gas prices continue to rise, on top of record-high housing costs in many cities across the U.S. If you’re an older adult who is already living on a tight budget, today’s inflation can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, there are programs available that can help you save money on health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more.

One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re eligible for benefits is to visit the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. The free and confidential tool connects older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers to benefit programs. The site is easy to use, even for people with minimal digital experience.

“It only takes a few minutes to learn about all the programs available and how to apply,” said Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of NCOA. “For example, there are Medicare programs that can boost your budget by helping with prescription drug costs, as well as premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.”

There are thousands of programs on BenefitsCheckUp, including:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which can help you pay for healthy food
  • The Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs, which can help people with Medicare afford their out-of-pocket health care expenses
  • The Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing Programs, which can help with housing costs
  • Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash for basic needs
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services
  • The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which can help you pay for home heating and cooling

Millions of older adults are eligible for, but not enrolled in these programs. In fact, NCOA estimates that $30 billion in benefits go unused each year simply because older adults don’t know about these programs — or how to apply.

BenefitsCheckUp.org will give you a personalized list of benefits you may be eligible for and the steps you need to apply, including links to the correct government agencies and applications. Just a few minutes could save you money every month.

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Helping teens develop financial literacy

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(Family Features) Developing financial knowledge and effective money management habits are important stepping stones for teenagers to become financially stable adults who aspire to build assets and achieve personal goals.

For example, most teens (88%) would like to own a home someday, according to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Junior Achievement USA and Fannie Mae. The survey of 1,000 teens ages 13-17 in the United States found most (85%) believe “owning a home” is part of “the good life,” compared to nearly as many adults (87%). However, fewer than half (45%) could correctly identify the definition of a home mortgage and 76% said they lacked clear understanding of credit scores.

“There’s been this theme that younger Americans aren’t interested in homeownership, but the results of this survey contradict that assumption,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Teens appear interested in owning a home someday but seem to realize they need more information on how to do it.”

To help teens gain a better understanding of financial decisions they’ll face in adulthood, consider these common terms.

Credit Score
While nearly all teens (96%) believe credit scores play an important role in the ability to purchase a home, approximately 3 in 4 (76%) said they understood credit scores only “somewhat,” “a little” or “not at all.” A credit score is a number from 300-850 based on a number of factors, including credit history, open accounts, total debt, repayment history and more. Lenders use credit scores to evaluate a person’s ability to repay loans.

A person’s credit score may also determine the size of a down payment needed when purchasing a smartphone or home, or the deposit needed for renting property or obtaining utilities and may impact interest rates and credit limits on credit cards. Generally, scores below 620 may require paying a higher rate, a shorter repayment term or a co-signer. Scores of 700 or higher are considered more favorable to creditors and may result in lower interest rates while scores higher than 800 typically provide the most benefits to consumers.

Mortgage
While a slight majority of white teens (52%) correctly identified the definition of a mortgage, only around a quarter (26%) of Black teens and fewer than half (41%) of Hispanic or Latino teens could do so. A mortgage is a type of loan used to purchase or maintain a home, land or other types of real estate. The borrower makes a down payment for a portion of the purchase price then borrows the rest from a lender. The borrower then repays the lender over a number of years – typically 15-30 – via a series of regular payments that are divided into principal (the money originally borrowed) and interest with the property serving as security.

Nearly all teens surveyed (97%) thought it would be helpful if schools offered lessons that explained homeownership, including mortgages. In response, Fannie Mae is supporting the development and deployment of Junior Achievement learning experiences for thousands of students annually in various age groups by integrating relevant content from its HomeView homeownership course materials and resources, which are designed with first-time homebuyers in mind.

“Young people today are the homebuyers of tomorrow,” said Jeffery Hayward, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Fannie Mae. “By providing them access to quality, foundational education now, Fannie Mae and Junior Achievement are helping these future homeowners prepare for the mortgage and homebuying process when they’re ready to take that step.”

Visit ja.org for more tips and information to help teens improve their financial knowledge and reach their goals.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
Junior Achievement

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Helping families manage holiday stress

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(Family Features) ’Tis the season for holiday parties, travel, hosting and more. While it is a joyous time of year, the never-ending to-do lists and school being out of session can make everyone feel a little overwhelmed, children included.

Consider these five practical tips from the experts at KinderCare to help families proactively manage holiday stressors.

  1. Manage expectations. The commotion that often comes with the holiday season can be stressful for young children, but you can help alleviate worries by familiarizing them with what’s to come. Talk to them about upcoming travel arrangements, who they’ll see at events and what to expect throughout the season. If they are cautious in their current developmental stage, let loved ones know beforehand to give them a little extra space at festivities. Parents can also begin familiarizing little ones with relatives through photos and phone calls.
     
  2. Empower children. It’s important for children to understand they have a choice – and family members are willing to respect that choice. Parents should acknowledge their children’s body language and empower them to say “no” in uncomfortable situations. Parents can help by proactively asking questions such as, “Do you want a hug?” and if they say “no,” support them in their decision. This also helps establish healthy long-term social skills.
     
  3. Maintain your schedule. Children thrive on consistency, and during the holidays it’s important to at least try maintaining as much of what they’re used to as possible, such as naps, meals and playtime. Changes in schedule can result in more tantrums, so be sure to allow space for them to safely work through their emotions.

    It’s also important to note that children feed off their parents’ energy, so make sure you’re in tune with your own emotions. When overwhelmed, openly discuss how you’re feeling and involve your children when taking breaks. For example, “It’s loud in here, would you like to go sit outside with me?”
     
  4. Have fun. Make time to spread joy and integrate activities to bond as a family, such as reading holiday-themed books, crafting, playing games, singing or baking. Whether old traditions or new, these are moments your child can cherish for years to come.
     
  5. Keep others in mind. While it’s important to set children up for success ahead of the holidays, parents should also teach children the holiday season can look different for others. Putting a focus on experiences rather than the gifts can help them have more to discuss with their peers when returning to school. It’s also a good time to consider donating toys to make room for new ones or volunteering at a local charity to show children joy can be experienced through more than just gifts.

To find more tips to help manage holiday stress, or to access additional resources around social development, setting boundaries and routines, visit KinderCare.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
KinderCare

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