National Digest: Overdose deaths rising among middle-aged women

HEALTH
Overdose deaths up for middle-aged women

Overdose deaths in the United States are rising fastest among middle-aged women, and their drug of choice is usually prescription painkillers, the government reported Tuesday.

“Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled the data.

For many decades, the overwhelming majority of U.S. overdose deaths were men killed by heroin or cocaine. But by 2010, 40 percent were women — most of them middle-aged women who took prescription painkillers.

Skyrocketing female overdose death rates are closely tied to a boom in the overall use of prescribed painkillers. The new report is the CDC’s first to spotlight how the death trend has been more dramatic among women.

The CDC found that the number and rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths among women increased about fivefold from 1999 to 2010. Among men, such deaths rose about 3½ times.

Overall, more men still die from overdoses of painkillers and other drugs; there were about 23,000 such deaths in 2010, compared with about 15,300 for women.

— Associated Press

ILLINOIS
New sentencing date set for Jackson

A federal judge on Tuesday set Aug. 14 as the new sentencing date for former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and his wife.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington scheduled the new hearing after Wednesday’s original sentencing date was postponed.

Jackson, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., a civil rights leader, pleaded guilty this year to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items, including a gold-plated Rolex and mounted elk heads, among other things.

He faces a maximum five-year prison term. Under his plea agreement, Jackson must pay back the $750,000 and he’ll be subject to a host of other financial penalties.

Jackson’s wife, Sandi Jackson, is to be sentenced at the same hearing on a related conviction.

Last week, prosecutors filed a forfeiture motion listing the Jacksons’ two homes, which observers said could result in their losing one or both of them.

The Jacksons have two school-aged children, and the judge must decide whether to stagger their sentences so that they won’t be in prison at the same time.

— Associated Press

PENNSYLVANIA
Girl who got adult lungs has surgery

A 10-year-old girl who had two adult lung transplants after her parents sued to change national rules on organ donations underwent surgery Tuesday to repair her diaphragm.

The operation performed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is expected to allow Sarah Murnaghan to breathe on her own. Sarah has needed a breathing tube since the successful June 15 transplant because she suffered a partial paralysis of her diaphragm during that procedure.

Sarah has been hospitalized for months with end-stage cystic fibrosis while awaiting two new lungs. The girl, who is from Newtown Square, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, was a top candidate for organs from a child donor, but none were available, and a national transplant policy put her at the bottom of the adult list — behind patients who were less critically ill.

Her parents then sued to change the policy. A federal judge intervened, and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network — the private nonprofit group that manages U.S. organ allocation — added Sarah to the adult list, which is for patients 12 and older.

— Associated Press

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