Tag Archives: overdose

CVS to stock R.I. Walgreens stores with Narcan

narcan-with-needle3The opiate overdose antidote Narcan will soon be available in all CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island without a prescription. The move comes as the state is seeing a surge in recent deaths due to opiate drug overdoses, which can be reversed by Narcan, also known as naloxone. Narcan can be administered as a nasal spray or an injection, and CVS says it will offer both, following in the footsteps of a similar move by Walgreens last year.

Rhode Island ranks among the highest in the country in illicit drug use, including the non-medical use of prescription painkillers and per capita overdose deaths.
In the first four months of 2014, 90 Rhode Islanders died from accidental drug overdoses, a 23% increase from the 73 drug overdoses reported during the same period last year.

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Generation Rx

grxAs you may know, for the past five years I’ve been working on a book about prescription drug and heroin addiction. It’s called Generation Rx: A Story of Dope, Death, and America’s Opiate Crisis, and it was just published by Counterpoint Press.

The book tells the story of losing my brother Pat, who became addicted to painkillers in high school and died of a heroin overdose at age 20 in February 2009. It also tells the stories of others who have been affected by this epidemic, including parents, former and current addicts, law enforcement officials, harm reduction workers, activists, and doctors. My hope is that telling these stories will help break down the shame and stigma that continue to surround addiction, as well as bring more education and awareness about the painkiller and heroin addiction epidemic that kills 16,000 people a year.

Visit my author website for more information about the book, including upcoming appearances and media interviews.

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U.S. AG calls for cops to carry Narcan

naloxone-hcl-narcanU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is urging federal law enforcement agencies to identify, train and equip personnel who may interact with a victim of a heroin overdose with the drug naloxone. The potentially life-saving drug — which effectively restores breathing to a victim in the midst of a heroin or opioid overdose — is already carried by officers in some state and local law enforcement groups while on patrol.

The U.S. Department of Justice wants federal law enforcement agencies, as well as their state and local partners, to review their policies and procedures to determine whether personnel should be equipped and trained to recognize and respond to opioid overdose by various methods, including the use of naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, resulting in over 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

According to Holder:

The shocking increase in overdose deaths illustrates that addiction to heroin and other opioids, including some prescription painkillers, represents nothing less than a public health crisis. I am confident that expanding the availability of naloxone has the potential to save the lives, families and futures of countless people across the nation.

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N.J. task force urges action on opiate abuse

bunchofpillsA New Jersey task force on heroin and opiate abuse is calling for a number of measures to address the state’s growing prescription drug and heroin epidemic. In a new report, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said the number of drug-related deaths in the state is skyrocketing, rising 53 percent from 2010 to 2012, with more than two-thirds of those fatalities involving prescription drug abuse, according to this article. The report proposes major changes to New Jersey’s prescription pill monitoring laws, improvements to an insurance system that stacks the deck against drug addicts, and expanded use of recovery communities for students battling opioid addiction, the article says.

Like many other states, New Jersey has seen a rise in heroin abuse in light of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Heroin is cheaper than pills, and in many cases easier to obtain. In the report, the task force chairman wrote:

“This is hardly the traditional path to heroin abuse, and that is one of the things that make the present situation so troubling. Because readily-available prescription pills have become a gateway drug, heroin is finding its way into the world of people who never imagined that they would ever confront this terrible substance.”

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Generation Rx

41mx4k+hrxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As you may know, I am a journalist. When my 20-year-old brother Pat died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I had heard about powerful painkillers like OxyContin and knew he was addicted to them, but I didn’t understand the connection to heroin. I started digging deeper, trying to learn more about both Pat’s personal downfall and the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic. I have spent the past five years traveling the country and talking to people who have been affected by this issue. My book on the subject, Generation Rx: A Story of Dope, Death, and America’s Opiate Crisis, will be published August 12 by Counterpoint Press and is available for pre-order on Amazon. I wanted to share my brother’s story and the stories of other families in the hopes of breaking down the stigma associated with drug addiction.

In 2010, 75% of the 38,000 yearly deaths by drug overdose in the U.S. were related to opioids; in 2011, almost 80% of people who had used heroin in the previous year also had a history of abusing prescription painkillers. This problem is getting worse, not better, and we need to start talking about it. If you’ve been touched by opiate addiction, I hope you’ll read my book and share it with others.

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R.I. boosts access to overdose antidote

overdoseRhode Island authorities are taking emergency steps to address an overdose crisis by making the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available, including to law enforcement agencies. According to this article, the state’s health department says Rhode Island is in the midst of “a severe prescription and street-drug overdose crisis” and that expanded access to naloxone — otherwise known as Narcan — has become “immediately necessary to save lives.”

The emergency regulations allow for naloxone to be prescribed not only to a person experiencing an overdose or at risk of one, but to family members and friends in a position to assist, while police departments would also be able to obtain and administer Narcan under a standing order from a prescriber, according to the article.

Rhode Island reported 55 accidental overdose deaths this year through March 4, about twice the normal number, the article says.

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. currently have some type of Narcan distribution program, including some where family and friends of addicts receive kits in case of emergency.

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Teen pill abuse down in Ohio

PILLS.jpgThere is evidence that Ohio’s efforts to curb prescription drug addiction among teens is working. Fewer than 12.8 percent of ninth through 12th graders reported using prescription painkillers without a doctor’s orders at least once during their life, according to the 2013 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The number marks a 40 percent drop from the previous study, in 2011, when 21.3 percent of students said they had used painkillers without a prescription, according to this article.

But the state’s fight is far from over: many painkiller addicts are turning to heroin when their prescriptions run out or they can no longer afford to get the painkillers from dealers, leading to a surge in overdose deaths in the Greater Cincinnati area, the article notes.

From 2000 to 2011, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased more than 350 percent, and the increase in deaths has been driven largely by prescription drug overdoses, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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Heroin use has doubled, but OD antidote still scarce

naloxone-hcl-narcanAlthough federal data suggests that heroin use has roughly doubled across the country in recent years, the overdose antidote naloxone remains widely unavailable to many users and emergency responders — despite a success rate that normally exceeds 80% or 90%, according to this report by the Los Angeles Times.

Legislatures in Democrat and Republican states alike are considering proposals that would expand access to naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, and 17 states plus the District of Columbia have already adopted laws expanding access to the drug, the LA Times says. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia also have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer immunity to those who call 911 during an overdose, according to the paper.

Naloxone has few if any side effects, and is virtually 100% effective when used on an overdose victim whose heart is still beating, the paper notes. It has successfully reversed more than 10,000 lives in the last fifteen years, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.

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Hoffman’s death illustrates rising heroin epidemic

ijectionOscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday of an apparent heroin overdose amid a growing problem of addiction and deaths due to the powerful street drug, the Los Angeles Times reports. Many prescription painkiller addicts are turning to heroin to get a similar high after they lose access to popular pills such as OxyContin, the LA Times notes. In 2011, at least 178,000 Americans used heroin for the first time, almost doubling from five years earlier, the Times says, citing the latest available estimate from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Hoffman, who was 46, had reportedly been clean for 23 years before falling off the wagon in 2012, according to this article. His death has sparked sympathy from some circles, but as the comments to this article show, there are also many people who remain unsympathetic to drug overdose deaths.

Hoffman’s death follows the opioid-related deaths of other celebrities in recent years, including Heath Ledger and Cory Monteith. It’s not just movie stars who are getting caught up in this trend: poisoning deaths, most of which are due to drugs, have overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and responsible for nearly 40,000 fatalities annually. But as Maia Szalavitz notes on Time.com, those numbers don’t have to be so high:

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Wisc. legislators tackle heroin abuse

gavelIn 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.

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