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Category Archives: Trends
The rise in heroin addiction across the nation, fueled by the prescription drug addiction epidemic, has caused an uptick in the number of people in need of inpatient treatment services — but many who need help are contending with a shortage of services and constraints placed on care by insurance companies. The increase in demand for treatment has left many addicts to wait weeks in some cases for care because of denial from their insurance companies, according to this article. Before insurance companies agree to cover inpatient services they want evidence that an addict has tried one or more outpatient programs, has little or no outside support network, and has a health condition that makes treatment a medical necessity, the article says.
Previously, a typical inpatient program lasted a month and the average detox program ran seven to 10 days; these days, as a result of insurance companies scaling back their coverage and increasing their deductibles, inpatient services generally run 10 days and detoxes three to five days — and most insurers will only pay for up to 10 days, the article says.
In Wisconsin, where heroin killed nearly 200 people in 2012, legislators are considering legislation that would provide immunity to anyone who helps a person who has overdosed on drugs, and would also provide immunity for possessing and administering the overdose antidote Narcan, according to this article.
They are also considering a separate bill that would target the abuse of opiate painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin by allowing more medicine collection sites to accept them for disposal. A third measure would create regional treatment centers, the article says.
Heroin overdose deaths surpassed cocaine deaths in Milwaukee County for the first time in 2012, and heroin was present in 32% of fatal overdoses from mixed drug cocktails, according to this article. Narcan is increasingly being used to address the problem: statewide, emergency medical services have seen an increase in naloxone in the last three years, from 2,915 uses in 2010 to 3,247 in 2011 and 3,730 in 2012, the article says.
Overdose hospitalizations accounted for approximately two of every 10,000 hospital visits in 2012, and opiate-related deaths have grown from 2.19 per 100,000 deaths in 2000 to 8.08 in 2011, a report by the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse found.
What 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.
In Ohio, prescription drug addiction is increasingly putting young, educated suburbanites on the path to heroin addiction. According to this article, these addicts are flooding detox centers, rehab facilities and jails — and are also ending up in the morgue in record numbers. Statewide, nearly 500 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013 alone, and the number of heroin-related deaths has more than doubled in the past three years in a majority of Ohio counties, from 292 in 2010 to 606 in 2012, the article says.
Prescription drug addiction is causing a rise in overdose deaths among women in Montana, according to this article. Between January 2008 and August 2013, some 352 Montana women died from a drug overdose, the article says.
Earlier this year, officials in Montana reported a “silent epidemic” of prescription drug abuse that contributed to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans in 2008. Mirroring federal statistics, that number outpaced deaths from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine combined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than five times as many women nationwide 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.
The National Association of Attorneys General has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require tamper-resistant versions of generic prescription painkillers in a bid to deter abuse. In a letter to the agency, 42 state and territorial attorneys general said the agency should ensure that generic opioids, like their branded counterparts, have abuse-deterrent properties.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that drug overdose deaths increased for the eleventh consecutive year in 2010. According to the agency, 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the U.S. that year, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009.
Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase, the CDC found: starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.
In 2010, nearly 60% of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651), according to the CDC.
There are many reasons why teenagers get hooked on prescription drugs, but new research conducted at the University of Michigan has found that those who are prescribed pain relievers are at “notable risk” for abusing opioid drugs.
A University of Michigan researcher found that teens may develop an increased tolerance to the medication, which can lead to continued use of the drug after the initial prescription is finished.
According to the researcher:
“Once an adolescent has been medically exposed to a potentially addictive medication, adolescents are more likely to engage in nonmedical use and diversion, including buying, selling and giving away pills.”
Earlier this year, a separate study found that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime – a 33% increase over the past five years – up from 18% in 2008.
Of those kids who said they abused prescription medications, one in five (20%) had done so before age 14, that survey found.
While the abuse of painkillers has become a focus for concern, the corresponding rise in heroin use is also prompting calls for action, according to National Public Radio. In several states, including Wisconsin, legislation has been introduced to give people legal protection when calling 911 about an overdose, NPR says.
The number of people reporting heroin use in the previous year increased between 2007 and 2012, from 373,000 to 669,000, while nearly 80 percent of people who had used heroin in 2011 had also previously abused prescription painkillers classified as opioids, according to NPR.
Prescription drugs were implicated in the deaths of more than 700 New Jersey residents in both 2011 and 2012, according to statistics released by the state assistant state medical examiner.
The number of drug deaths in the state rose from 843 in 2010 to 1,027 in 2011 and 1,188 in 2013, according to the medical examiner. The number of deaths caused by prescription drugs alone over the three years varied from 402 in 2010 to 470 in 2011 and 460 in 2012, while the instances in which deaths were caused by a combination of prescription and illicit drugs rose from 180 in 2010 to 231 in 2011 and 262 in 2012.
Earlier this year, an investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended reclassifying hydrocodone-containing painkillers like Vicodin from Schedule III drugs to the more restrictive Schedule II, a move that would bring such medications in line with opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and morphine.
In January, an expert panel advising the FDA voted 19 to 10 in favor of the more stringent prescribing requirements. Proponents of the reclassification have noted hydrocodone’s abuse potential (such products are currently the most-abused prescription medicine behind oxycodone), while critics have argued that the move would hinder legitimate pain patients from obtaining treatment.
The reclassification must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which will make a final scheduling decision.
Separately in September, the FDA announced new safety labeling changes for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics such as OxyContin. The updated labels must state that such medications are indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment.
In addition, because of the risk of addiction and abuse “even at recommended doses,” as well as the greater risks of overdose and death, the drugs must be labeled as “reserved for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (e.g., non-opioid analgesics or immediate-release opioids) are ineffective, not tolerated, or would be otherwise inadequate to provide sufficient management of pain,” the agency said.