Tag Archives: methadone

Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

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.

As this editorial notes, despite the widespread nature of painkiller and heroin abuse, those who are addicted continue to be stigmatized.

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Opioid abuse epidemic leaving many untreated

RXAs of 2009, around 2.3 million Americans suffered from addiction to opioids such as heroin or the prescription drug oxycodone, and new research shows that many of these people aren’t getting the treatment they need, according to this article. The massive uptick in opiate addiction has resulted in a major gap between current treatment options and evidence-based practices, the article says, citing an article published in the journal Health Affairs.

Excessive regulation presents the biggest barrier for treatment in the U.S., the article says. In addition, although maintenance treatment with methadone is the dominant form of treatment for opioid dependence throughout most of the developed world, detox is still a popular option, particularly in the U.S. – even though it is ineffective in getting and keeping people off of opioids, the article says.

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Driven by pills, U.S. death overdose rates doubled since 1999

imgname--prescription_drug_abuse_on_the_rise---38647165--images--flickr_2931207680The rate of reported drug overdoses in the U.S. more than doubled between 1999 and 2010, with about half of the additional deaths falling under the pharmaceuticals category, according to this article in Popular Science. The data, which was compiled from WONDER, the CDC National Center for Health Statistics’ multiple cause of death database, showed that nearly three-quarters of the pharmaceuticals deaths were due to opioid analgesics such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

The CDC 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.

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Naloxone awareness can combat opiate deaths: WRCPC


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 always amazes me, 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 D.O.P.E. 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.)

In Canada — which is second only to the U.S. in per-capita consumption of prescription opiates — naloxone costs less than $12, but isn’t widely distributed or acknowledged, according to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. In a powerful new short film, the WRCPC explains how naloxone can help save lives and highlights the need for expanding overdose prevention.

Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a study found earlier this year.

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Student’s OD death highlights dangers of pill ‘speedballing’

overdoseThe recent overdose death of a 24-year-old law student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. underscores the dangers of speedballing – the combination of stimulant and depressant drugs. In this case, the student died after mixing heroin and the prescription drug Adderall, which is meant to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to this article. Substance abusers also commonly use it to counteract the effects of heroin so they can take more of the opiate.

Obviously, the practice of speedballing is nothing new. But the widespread abuse of prescription drugs has brought things to a whole new level. Nearly 60% of drug-related deaths in 2010 involved prescription drugs, and three-quarters of those deaths involved opioids such as oxycodone and morphine, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here is a list of common drug cocktails – including medicines as seemingly innocuous as Tylenol – that can be deadly when mixed together.

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Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher: in 2009, more than 37,000 people died from drug overdoses, and many of these deaths were caused by prescription painkiller opiate drugs, such as OxyContin.

As this editorial notes, today is a difficult day for those who have lost loved ones to drug addiction.

So, what can be done?

Several things:

Share your personal story. Unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, I guarantee you know someone who has struggled or is currently struggling with addiction. Fear and shame keep too many of these stories hidden. Start talking. End the silence. My brother Pat was addicted to prescription painkillers and later heroin, but he kept much of his addiction hidden from his family because he felt ashamed. After he died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I found some of his journals and learned how deeply he struggled with feelings that he had let us down. I wish I had known this before he died. I wish he wasn’t the reason behind this website.

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Painkiller addiction leads to rising sales of black-market suboxone

The rise in addiction to powerful prescription painkillers like OxyContin, as well as heroin, has led to an increase in the number of patients seeking suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone that is used to treat opiate addiction. According to this article, only 26 percent of physicians are licensed to prescribe suboxone, and the majority of those doctors are limited to treating only 30 patients a year. But access isn’t the only issue: some physicians charge massive fees, deny insurance, or accept only cash, so depending on the severity of the individual’s addiction and black market resources, buying suboxone on the streets can be much cheaper than from a doctor, the article says.

Another article discusses how the social stigma of addiction has helped create a thriving black market for suboxone —one that poses real dangers for addicts trying to stay clean.

Meanwhile, there is controversy over whether suboxone is all it’s cracked up to be, with critics saying the drug is causing its own epidemic of addiction.

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In Calif., rise in young painkiller abusers leads to more heroin overdoses

Today, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly has a report produced with the California Report, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, on the rising prescription drug epidemic in California. While few hard statistics are available on the number of people moving from prescription drugs to cheaper heroin in the state, interviews with drug treatment experts and public health officials suggest a marked increase in heroin use that is accompanying the steady and dramatic rise in prescription opioid abuse among young people, the article says.

The report includes two radio stories produced with KQED, San Francisco Bay Area’s National Public Radio station, as well as an audio slideshow.

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Methadone linked to one-third of painkiller deaths: CDC

More than 15,500 people die every year of prescription drug overdoses, and nearly one-third of those overdoses involve the drug methadone, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While methadone accounts for only two percent of painkiller prescriptions in the United States, it is involved in more than 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths, the report found.

Methadone, which has been used for decades to treat drug addiction, has been increasingly prescribed in recent years to relieve pain. But the drug is riskier than other painkillers, because it can build up in a person’s body, leading to dangerously slowed breathing. Methadone can also be particularly risky when used with tranquilizers or other prescription painkillers.

More than 4 million methadone prescriptions were written for pain in 2009, despite warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the risks associated with the drug.

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Painkiller addiction in Knoxville, Tenn.

This is Part Two of an ongoing series by Cityview concerning the opiate addiction epidemic in Knoxville, Tenn. that explores where the painkillers that are flooding East Tennessee are coming from. The article points out that any licensed doctor can open and run a pain management clinic, even those without training in pain management – and doctors who prescribe opiates can make as much as $7,000 to $10,000 per day by billing insurance or getting cash from patients.

Read Part One of Cityview’s series, “The Faces of Addiction,” here.

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