Friday, July 24, 2009

Get it Right

The media has picked up a story of a tragic alcohol-related death of a 16 year old male. His autopsy reportedly revealed a relatively low blood alcohol level but high levels of papaverine, a drug sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. What do the headlines read?

Erectile drug mystery in teen's death at party

Traces of erectile drug found in dead teen

The problem here is that papaverine needs to be INJECTED into the penis to work for erectile dysfunction. Oral forms of papavarine are not routinely used and will do nothing for erectile issues. The headlines can cause people to panic because the complete medical information is not presented in the articles. This boy suffocated on his own vomit when he was unconscious due to a combination of alcohol and this medication found in his bloodstream. Questions surround why this medication was found in his bloodstream and perhaps these articles were crafted to bring increased attention to the case as his family were growing frustrated with the investigation (Orinda mother calls death investigation 'shockingly passive').

Nonetheless, a tragedy such as this should highlight the need for teen education when we are talking about toxic drinking. A new program has begun at Stonybrook University in Long Island, New York called the Red Watch Band that specifically covers this topic. This project was started after a Stonybrook faculty member lost her own son, a college freshman while away at another college, to an alcohol overdose.

When used properly with consultation from your health care provider, there is little need to worry about the FDA oral prescription medication (Viagra, Cialis and Levitra) or injectable medications (Edex, papavarine) used to treat erectile dysfunction although reading only these headlines may cause you to think otherwise.

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