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Tag Archives: opioid
Authorities are investigating whether heroin laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl may have contributed to up to 50 recent fatal overdoses in three states. Fentanyl, an opiate that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, is sometimes added to the street drug to create a stronger high.
According to this article, at least 17 fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania in January were suspected to have been caused by the dangerous blend; while 37 deaths in Maryland since last September and four recent deaths in Flint, Mich. have also been linked to the drug.
A heroin overdose can cause your body to forget to breathe, your blood pressure to dip significantly, and your heart to fail. (Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. For every 20% of heroin addicts in a population treated with the drug, about 6.5% of overdose deaths could be prevented, resulting in 2,000 lives saved in a population of 200,000 heroin users, a recent study 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.
More than $32 million recovered in settlements with two pharmaceutical companies will be used throughout Kentucky to expand substance abuse treatment, including opiate addictions. The state’s attorney general, Jack Conway, said the settlement funds will help create a new treatment center for adults, treatment scholarships, a grant program for new juvenile treatment beds and/or centers, and expanded services for juveniles.
Kentucky currently only has one-tenth of the substance abuse treatment beds it needs, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Conway’s suit against Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., which accused the company of failing to disclose to doctors and patients that taking Vioxx significantly raised the risk of heart attack, recently settled for $25 million. His suit against GlaxoSmithKline for failing to disclose that patients taking its diabetes drug, Avandia, were at a higher risk for a cardiovascular event, settled for $15 million.
The illegal use of prescription drugs has dropped among young people in Kentucky over the past four years, according to state officials: in 2008, 15.2% of 12th-graders surveyed said they had used prescription drugs without a doctor’s permission, but that figure dropped to 9% in 2012.
In New Jersey, where drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death, police officers in several counties will now be allowed to carry the anti-overdose drug Narcan. Police in Ocean, Hunterdon, Camden and Cape May counties are set to begin carrying Narcan, an aerosol form of naloxone that counteracts the effects of heroin and other opioids, after the state passed the Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act last year. The law enables medical providers to prescribe naloxone and allow people to administer the drug to overdose victims without fear of being prosecuted. It also requires that prescription recipients get information on how to prevent and recognize overdoses, as well as how to administer the medication and care for the overdose victim.
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.
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.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel has approved Zogenix Inc.’s Zohydro painkiller, a new version of pure, extended-release hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin. The move comes amid criticism from those who say the FDA should not be approving any additional opioids given the current prescription drug addiction epidemic. An advisory panel last year voted against approving Zohydro, citing concerns about the danger of addiction posed by the opioid drug class.
Unlike other hydrocodone-containing drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, Zohydro is not buffered with acetaminophen or some other over-the-counter medication. The drug also lacks an abuse-deterrent feature such as the ones used in new formulations of drugs like OxyContin.
Hydrocodone is currently the second most-abused medicine in the U.S. behind oxycodone.
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.