Category Archives: Uncategorized

The end of a journey

1930428_612120663129_8445_nDear Oxy Watchdog readers,

Six years ago, very shortly after my brother Pat’s death of a heroin overdose, I decided that I wanted to do something to increase awareness about the epidemic of prescription painkiller and opiate addiction in America today. The Oxy Watchdog blog, launched just a few months after Pat passed away, was intended to be a place where people could come to learn more about a problem that is increasingly affecting families across the nation. But it became much more than that. Through the blog, many people from various walks of life reached out to me and shared their own stories. Sometimes these stories were from other families who had lost loved ones, filling me with sadness at the tragic loss of life and the horrors of addiction. Sometimes these stories were from chronic pain sufferers who were indignant at what they saw as my mission to interfere with their medications. Sometimes these stories were from addicts themselves who spoke openly about their own challenges and the heartbreak their drug use had caused them.

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Prosecutors turn eye on dealers for pill OD deaths

gavelAs more painkiller addicts are turning to heroin due to the crackdown on prescription drugs, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are turning to rarely used drug laws to prosecute drug dealers for their role in causing overdose deaths, according to this article in the Associated Press.

Prosecutors in New Jersey, for example, are using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute, a first-degree crime that holds dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death and has a 20-year maximum sentence, the article says. They are also changing the way they investigate overdoses, which were once looked upon as accidents, immediately sending detectives to the scene of an overdose, and instructing paramedics to treat overdoses like crimes. In addition, coroners are being asked to order autopsies and preserve forensic evidence because proving that a death was caused solely by heroin can be difficult when other substances are present in a person’s system, the article says.

The number of people nationwide who have used heroin in the past year rose by 66% between 2007 and 2011, while the number of people who died of overdoses and had heroin present in their system jumped 55% from 2000 to 2010, the article notes, citing federal data.

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Deaths among young heroin users on the rise in Wash.

heroinHeroin use and related deaths have increased significantly across Washington state over the past decade — and the trend is especially prevalent among people under age 30, who are finding it cheaper and easier to get heroin than prescription opiates these days, according to this article.

The article cites a new study by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, which found that drug treatment admissions for heroin increased statewide from 2,647 in 2002 to 7,500 in 2012. The majority of 18- to-29-year-olds seeking drug treatment for the first time in 2012 were being treated for heroin use, the study also found.

In addition, the number of accidental deaths statewide involving heroin and prescribed opiates doubled from an average of 310 a year between 2000 and 2002 and 607 a year from 2009 to 2011, according to the study.

The article notes that the data from Washington mirrors a national trend, even though the most up-to-date national research is a few years behind Washington:

A National Institutes of Health study cites numbers from 2009 that show a national rise in opiate addiction and overdoses. The authors of that study, which was published in February 2013 in the Public Library of Science journal, predicted heroin use would likely increase as a result.

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Doctors grow less wary when prescribing pain meds to teens

Prescriptions for controlled substances such as painkillers and stimulants have nearly doubled among teens due in part to pain advocates and more lax attitudes toward medicating, reports this article in US News. According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, medications such as OxyContin and Ritalin were prescribed at 6.4 percent of doctor visits for adolescents in 1994, but rose to 11.2 percent in 2007. For older teenagers, the rate increased from 8.3 percent to 16.1 percent. The article cites sales of oxycodone as a factor driving the upward trend, with sales raising 732 percent and those of methadone by more than 1,000 percent between 1997 and 2006. Though the study did not look at the connection of increased prescribing practices to prescription drug misuse among young adults, the researchers suggest the link warrants further study.

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Rural teens more likely to abuse prescription drugs

A new study has found that teenagers living in rural areas are 26 percent more likely to use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes than teens in urban areas, according to this release from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Though the study by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found there was little difference in illicit drug use between the two groups, those in rural areas were found to abuse prescription drugs – specifically painkillers and tranquilizers – more often than urban teens. In the study, the authors say one possible reason for the difference is that it may be harder for rural teens to get a hold of harder drugs such as heroin. Using data from nearly 8,000 12- to 17-year-olds participating in the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the study also found that about one in eight U.S. adolescents reported lifetime non-medical use of prescription opioids.

Find out more about prescription drug use among U.S. teens here.

Read about prescription drug use among Canadian students here.

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Prescription drug abuse on the rise among Canadian students

A recent Canadian study on student drug use reveals that students use drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Tylenol 3 and Demerol as early as seventh grade, reports The self-administered, anonymous survey for Ontario students grades 7-12, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, shows drug use doubled from eight to ninth grade – from 11 percent to 22 percent – in 2009. School officials blame the ease of access to prescription drugs for the increase in abuse.

Go here to read the complete study from CAMH.
To read about prescription drug overdose among U.S. teens, go here.
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Prescription drug overdose main killer of teens

Once the number one killer of people under the age of 34, car crashes have been replaced by prescription drug abuse as the top cause of death among teens. As reported by the The News-Times, a recent study found the abuse of accessible opiates such as the painkiller oxycodone are luring young people in record numbers. Furthermore, addiction to the pricey narcotic drug leads them to seek out less expensive options such as heroin, with one addiction specialist telling the paper she has sent 30 of her patients under age 22 to in-patient treatment for opiate abuse. All of them, she said, started off using painkillers like Oxy but soon couldn’t afford the $80 per pill and switched to heroin, which costs about $10 a bag.

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Prescription pill abuse up by 400%: study

Rehab admissions for abuse of prescription medications like OxyContin have increased by a whopping 400 percent between 1998 and 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration says in a new study. The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the nation, the study found.

Read the full study here.

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Mortician embalms son after heroin death that stemmed from Oxy

While there seem to be at least a few stories every week on OxyContin-related deaths, this one by the Taunton Daily Gazette is particularly heart-wrenching. George Fiske, a Brockton, Mass. funeral director, tells of embalming his own son, 22-year-old Lance Patrick Fiske, who died of a heroin overdose in the family home that also houses the funeral business on Aug. 23. Lance moved on to heroin after becoming addicted to OxyContin in high school, the paper reports. Of Lance, who had been clean for the past nine months and working in the family business, Fiske said, “he was my buddy,” according to the paper.

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