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Cheap, high-grade heroin floods New England

needle ODRecent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England.

Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, while New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago, the article says. In Vermont, officials reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40%, according to the article.

A $6 bag of heroin in New York City nets $10 in southern New England and up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, the article adds, citing law enforcement officials.

According to the article:

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. About a quarter of everyone who tries it becomes dependent on it. Users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek more and more until the pursuit takes over their lives and, often, leads to ruin.

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New OxyContin fuels abuse of other pills, heroin

As we reported last month, Purdue’s new version of OxyContin has done little to address the epidemic of addiction its painkiller has caused. Not only are addicts figuring out ways to abuse OP, they’re also increasingly turning to other prescription drugs with oxycodone, such as Percocet 30s and Roxycodone – as well as the painkiller Opana, according to this article in the New York Times. They’re also turning to heroin, which is cheaper and provides the same high. Purdue’s comment on these developments? The company is “cautiously optimistic” that the reformulation will eventually prove less susceptible to abuse but says it’s “still too early to make any conclusions about the product’s impact on abuse and misuse in real-world settings,” the article says.

Let’s get real. Purdue didn’t take OxyContin off the market because it’s making money hand over fist – it just found a way to make even MORE money hand over fist.

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Generation Rx


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Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


What had happened to my baby brother? How did a tiny little pill shatter our family? When did we first begin losing Pat?

These are the harrowing questions that plagued Erin Marie Daly after her youngest brother Pat, an OxyContin addict, was found dead of a heroin overdose at the age of twenty. In just a few short years, the powerful prescription painkiller had transformed him from a fun-loving ball of energy to a heroin addict hell-bent on getting his next fix. Yet even as Pat’s addiction destroyed his external life, his internal struggle with opiates was far more heart wrenching. Erin set out on a painful personal journey, turning a journalistic eye on her brother’s addiction; in the process, she was startled to discover a new twist to the ongoing prescription drug epidemic. That kids are hooked on prescription drugs is nothing new; what is new is how a generation of young people playing around with today’s increasingly powerful opioids are finding themselves in the frightening grip of heroin.

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Vt. heroin ODs doubled in past year

needle ODWhat started as an OxyContin and prescription drug addiction problem in Vermont has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis, with heroin overdose deaths doubling last year from the year before, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin. There has been more than a 250% increase in people receiving heroin treatment in Vermont since 2000, with the greatest percentage increase, nearly 40%, in just the past year, the governor said in his state of the state address. Since 2000, treatment for all opiates increased by more than 770% increase; in 2013, there were twice as many federal indictments against heroin dealers than in the prior two years, and over five times as many as had been obtained in 2010, Shumlin added.

In addition, more than $2 million of heroin and other opiates are being trafficked into Vermont every week, the governor said. Due to the state’s proximity to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities where heroin is cheap, dealers can make a lot of money from addicts in Vermont: a $6 bag of heroin in New York City can go for up to $30, Shumlin said.

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Maine heroin deaths up 300% since 2011

heroinfoilDriven by the painkiller addiction epidemic, the number of people in Maine who have died from a heroin overdose each year since 2011 has increased by 300%, according to Harper’s Magazine, which cites data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Some experts say that the trend is partly being fueled by recent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers, which has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this recent article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England, including in Maine.

Earlier this year, a report found that more than one-third of the prescription drugs stolen from Maine pharmacies are taken by employees. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of state disciplinary records revealed that from 2003 to 2013, 16 pharmacists and 41 pharmacy technicians lost their licenses for stealing drugs from pharmacy shelves or from the patients whose prescriptions they filled.

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Heroin is ‘archenemy No. 1’ in Chicago suburbs: coroner

heroinSuburban 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.

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Elderly population suffering from pill abuse

pill bottlesHealth professionals are seeing an increase in prescription drug abuse among the elderly — a problem that is largely going unnoticed due to the difficulties of balancing seniors’ legitimate medical concerns and the potential for abuse.

According to this article, “loss, isolation and easy access to medication make it increasingly common for aging adults to become addicted to the drugs they need to sleep through the night or manage their chronic pain.”

The number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room across the U.S. because of nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011, the article says, citing data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that America’s 78 million aging baby boomers are also experiencing the effects of the epidemic. According to the Times, a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3% in 2011 from 2.7% in 2002; opiates were among the most commonly abused drugs.

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Del. becomes 14th state to pass ‘Good Samaritan’ law

911 dial phone callThe governor of Delaware signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Tuesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Delaware the 14th state to pass such a measure. The law gives immunity from prosecution to people reporting an overdose, even if he or she has been involved in drug-related activity.

The bill also grants immunity from prosecution for offenses related to underage drinking.

Lawmakers approved the bill only after exempting higher level drug felonies from its immunity protections, a change that worried some critics who claimed the exemptions weakened the bill and would discourage people from reporting overdoses.

In Delaware, overdose deaths nearly tripled from 50 in 1999 to 137 in 2009, with a majority in recent years involving at least one prescription drug, according to this article.

New Mexico was the first state to pass a Good Samaritan law in 2007, followed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. According to TheFix.com, this year, nearly a dozen more states introduced bills: legislation in North Carolina and New Jersey succeeded, while other bills failed due to partisan bickering (Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota), were killed in committee (New Hampshire and West Virginia), or ran out of time (Hawaii and Texas); Maine still has a live bill, but it isn’t likely to pass this year.

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‘Overdose deaths are preventable:’ Narcan film


Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

This powerful new short film, “Reach for Me: Fighting to End the American Drug Overdose Epidemic,” is produced by Sawbuck Productions in Association with with CinemaNOPE Pictures and examines the need for expanded access to naloxone. It makes a great argument for how Narcan can help save lives, and explains why more overdose awareness prevention is needed.

I am always amazed at how many people are unaware of Narcan and how it’s used, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the DOPE Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.

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Walgreens to pay $80M over black-market Oxy sales

bunchofpillsThe U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced Tuesday that Walgreens has agreed to shell out $80 million to settle allegations that it allowed oxycodone and other controlled drugs to be diverted for black market sales from its Jupiter, Fla., distribution center.

The settlement, which is the largest in the DEA’s history, comes after the agency accused Walgreens last year of failing to maintain proper controls to ensure it didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

According to the DEA, the Jupiter distribution center has been the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida since 2009. In 2011, 16 of the top 25 largest oxycodone purchasers by Walgreens retail pharmacies, including the top six purchasers, were in Florida and supplied by the Jupiter center, the agency said.

Walgreens “committed an unprecedented number of record-keeping and dispensing violations” under the Controlled Substances Act, which is designed to prevent prescription painkillers from ending up on the streets, the DEA said.

In addition to the payout, Walgreens’ Jupiter center is banned from distributing and dispensing similar controlled substances until 2014. The deal also resolves similar investigations nationwide, including in Colorado, Michigan, and New York.

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