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Monthly Archives: August 2013
Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.
The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
Nearly two dozen doctors in Nevada are under investigation by the state’s medical board for allegedly over-prescribing the powerful painkiller OxyContin. The crackdown comes after Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) asked OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to reveal the names of physicians contained in a database that includes some 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing.
The Nevada medical board of examiners then met with Purdue and was provided with a list of doctors throughout the state who are suspected of criminal activity, according to this article.
Purdue claims it no longer promotes its product to the doctors at issue, the article says.
The company has taken the stance that the painkiller addiction epidemic was fueled largely by pharmacy robberies, doctor-shopping patients and teens raiding home medicine cabinets, but has admitted that a small number of physicians might account for a “substantial portion” of the nation’s black-market supply of prescription painkillers,
Although marijuana is the most popular illegal drug used worldwide, addiction to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin kill the most people, according to the first-ever global survey of illicit drug abuse.
Of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were because of painkiller addictions, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.
For all the drugs studied, men in their 20s had the highest rates of abuse, while the worst-hit countries were the U.S., Australia, Britain, and Russia, the study found.
Prescription drug addiction activists across the nation are planning a rally to urge federal agencies to take action to prevent new cases of opioid addiction, prevent more overdose deaths and ensure access to effective treatment for millions who have become addicted.
The rally, called “Fed Up! Rally for a Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic,” will be held Oct. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. at Capitol Hill (Upper Senate Park) in Washington, D.C., according to organizers.
Activists say addiction and overdose deaths due to narcotic painkillers and heroin
are one of the nation’s most urgent public health problems, and that the epidemic has placed a tremendous strain on the nation’s health care system, businesses, and local and state governments. Federal agencies, meanwhile, have been too slow and ineffective in responding to the problem, they say.
A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. In addition, people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use within the past 12 months than others in that age group, the report found.
The report came as part of SAMHSA’s larger efforts to identify some of the factors behind the rise in the rates of heroin use, dependence and initiation that have occurred in the past few years across the nation.
According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period, SAMHSA said.
Like many other areas of the nation affected by painkiller abuse, Lexington, Kentucky has been gripped by a wave of heroin-related deaths in recent months. According to this article, the trend has prompted law enforcement officials to consider carrying naloxone, a medication that reverses opiate overdoses. The Lexington Police Department is reviewing a training regimen and protocol that would enable it to place the kits in patrol cars, and is researching whether or not it would be legal for police to administer the drug to a third party, the article says.
Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.
Many states have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose. Some of these laws extend both to people seeking assistance for themselves and for others.
The widespread painkiller addiction epidemic has fueled the rise of heroin use nationwide, particularly among suburban youth. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of users went from 373,000 to 620,000, according to federal data, and heroin-dependent young adults more than doubled to 109,000 between 2009 and 2011.
Suburban teens have been scoring heroin on Chicago’s West Side since the 1990s, but heroin-related deaths have dramatically increased in recent years, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune, which cites statistics provided by county coroners. According to the article, experts attribute the spike to a combination of factors, including its cheap price, its availability, and the fact that syringes are no longer needed to inject the drug due to its purity, eliminating fear of needles as a deterrent.
Some of the article’s disturbing statistics:
In 2012, Lake County’s death toll reached a five-year high of 33, while heroin killed 27 people in Kane County, up from two in 2006, records show.
DuPage County’s numbers nearly doubled from 23 in 2007, the furthest its records go back, to 43 in 2012.
Heroin killed 53 Will County residents last year, more than traffic accidents and homicides combined, leading one coroner to call the drug “archenemy No. 1.”
McHenry County had 16 heroin deaths in 2012, the highest total since 2008. Cook County could not provide statistics that isolate heroin from other opiates, but the medical examiner said it remains a steady problem with an estimated one to two heroin deaths a day.
In the wake of a Los Angeles Times report describing a decade-long effort by Purdue Pharma to identify potentially problematic prescribers of OxyContin, two state lawmakers are requesting that the company turn over the names of doctors it suspects recklessly prescribed the pills to drug dealers and addicts.
Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) and California state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) want Purdue to reveal the names of physicians contained in a database that includes some 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing, according to the LA Times.
Purdue has taken the stance that the painkiller addiction epidemic was fueled largely by pharmacy robberies, doctor-shopping patients and teens raiding home medicine cabinets, but has admitted that a small number of physicians might account for a “substantial portion” of the nation’s black-market supply of prescription painkillers, the article says.
According to the article:
Beginning in 2002, Purdue trained its sales representatives to report “red flags” in doctors’ offices, such as young patients, long lines, people nodding off in waiting rooms and frequent cash transactions. Purdue attorneys review their reports, and if a doctor’s practice is deemed too risky, the company bars sales representatives from marketing to the physicians. The suspect doctors are removed from the company’s numbered sales territories and assigned to the database, known as “Region Zero.”
Heroin use and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and emerging information suggests this is the result of prescription painkiller addicts transitioning to the hardcore street drug. According to statistics recently released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, most people reporting heroin use initially started on pills.
According to the NCBI:
Between 2002-2004 and 2008-2010, past year heroin use increased among people reporting past year nonmedical use (PYNMU) of opioid pain relievers, but not among those reporting no PYNMU. Frequent nonmedical users – people reporting 100-365 days of PYNMU – had the highest rate of past year heroin use and were at increased risk for ever injecting heroin and past year heroin abuse or dependence as compared to infrequent nonmedical users (1-29 days of PYNMU).
In 2008-2010, 82.6% of frequent nonmedical users who used heroin in the past year reported nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers prior to heroin initiation compared to 64.1% in 2002-2004.
Officials in Montana report a “silent epidemic” of prescription drug abuse, which contributed to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans in 2008, according to this article. Mirroring federal statistics, that number outpaced deaths from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine combined.
To combat the problem, a task force of physicians and health care personnel from RiverStone Health, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare and the Rimrock Foundation have joined forces, the article says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than five times as many women died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2010 as in 1999, while the number of men dying from prescription drug overdose nearly tripled during the same time period.