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Tag Archives: overdose
As 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.
According to this article, which cites statistics released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Health Statistics Center, between 2007 and 2012, the state’s health statistics center in Charleston reported that a total of 240 deaths were caused by heroin overdoses through the state, increasing from a total of 22 in 2007 to 66 in 2012.
Berkeley County has seen a total of 48 deaths, Jefferson County saw a total of 14 deaths and Morgan County was listed as having seven heroin overdose deaths in that same time period, the article says.
In Berkeley County, the statistics center attributed just one death to a fatal heroin overdose in 2007, but by last year, the number had increased to 13, the article says. Jefferson County saw its highest number of heroin overdose deaths in 2008 and 2010, when four deaths were directly attributed to heroin, but the number dropped to just one in 2012, while Morgan County saw just one heroin overdose death recorded in 2011, which increased to three last year, according to the article.
Overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers have been on the rise among all segments of the population, but a new analysis of federal data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that such deaths have quintupled among women since 1999.
Although more men are still dying of prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up: in the last 14 years, the percentage increase in deaths has been greater for women, spiking by 400% as opposed to 265% for men, the CDC says.
According to the agency, 6,631 women died of opioid overdoses in 2010 — more than twice the number who die from cervical cancer — compared with 10,020 men; in addition, while younger women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54.
In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency room department visits for misuse of opioids among women, one every three minutes, the CDC says.
The governor of Delaware signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Tuesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Delaware the 14th state to pass such a measure. The law gives immunity from prosecution to people reporting an overdose, even if he or she has been involved in drug-related activity.
The bill also grants immunity from prosecution for offenses related to underage drinking.
Lawmakers approved the bill only after exempting higher level drug felonies from its immunity protections, a change that worried some critics who claimed the exemptions weakened the bill and would discourage people from reporting overdoses.
In Delaware, overdose deaths nearly tripled from 50 in 1999 to 137 in 2009, with a majority in recent years involving at least one prescription drug, according to this article.
New Mexico was the first state to pass a Good Samaritan law in 2007, followed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. According to TheFix.com, this year, nearly a dozen more states introduced bills: legislation in North Carolina and New Jersey succeeded, while other bills failed due to partisan bickering (Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota), were killed in committee (New Hampshire and West Virginia), or ran out of time (Hawaii and Texas); Maine still has a live bill, but it isn’t likely to pass this year.
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 powerful new short film, “Reach for Me: Fighting to End the American Drug Overdose Epidemic,” is produced by Sawbuck Productions in Association with with CinemaNOPE Pictures and examines the need for expanded access to naloxone. It makes a great argument for how Narcan can help save lives, and explains why more overdose awareness prevention is needed.
I am always amazed at how many people are unaware of Narcan and how it’s used, 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 DOPE 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.
Due to the painkiller addiction epidemic, the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota is experiencing a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths and emergency room admissions for overdoses. According to this article, there were 37 heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County last year – a more than 900% increase over the four deaths reported in 2008.
2012 is the second year in a row for a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths in the Twin Cities; in 2011, the number of overdose deaths more than doubled from the previous year, the article says.
Minneapolis has the highest purity level of Mexican heroin of any U.S. city, and sells the drug for the lowest prices, the article adds, citing a 2009 report by the Department of Human Services.
As we are seeing elsewhere in the nation, the painkiller addiction trend has resulted in a shocking uptick in heroin deaths.
The governor of Vermont signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Wednesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Vermont the 13th state to pass such a measure. The law extends both to people seeking assistance for themselves and for others, and seeks to prevent overdose deaths by empowering witnesses to report such episodes quickly without fear of legal repercussions, according to this article.
Drug overdoses were responsible for killing 73 people in Vermont last year, and remain the leading cause of injury death to state residents between the ages of 25 and 64, the article says.
Separately on Wednesday, the governor also gave the stamp of approval to a measure that will increase access to naloxone, a medication used to reverse opiate overdose, the article says. Under that law, doctors who prescribe naloxone to opiate-using patients and bystanders who administer the drug to an overdose victim will no longer be to subject to civil liabilities resulting from rare adverse reactions to the drug, according to the article.
As of March 2013, drug overdose “Good Samaritan” laws were in effect in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and were being actively considered by at least a half-dozen state legislatures. But many people are unaware of these laws, or are still fearful of being arrested if they call for help for overdose victims, anecdotal evidence shows. For example, this article out of Chicago reports that in one county, 175 people have died of heroin overdoses since 2007. In many of those cases, the article says, the victims were surrounded by people when they overdosed, but no one called 911 for help – even though Illinois passed a Good Samaritan law last year.
Good Samaritan laws typically provide immunity from drug possession charges; immunity applies to a person who seeks medical aid during an overdose (for example, by calling 911 or taking someone to the ER), and to a person having an overdose.
The 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.
In a sign that some of the measures Florida has taken to combat its prescription drug addiction problem are working, state authorities are reporting that the number of oxycodone-related deaths plunged during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. From January 2012 to June 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths, down from 1,058 during the same period in 2011, according to this article.
In that time period, there were 42 oxycodone-related deaths in Orange and Osceola counties — fewer than half the number of those deaths during the same period of the previous year — while heroin-related deaths remained the same, the article says. Meanwhile, in Seminole County, the number of oxycodone-related deaths during the 2011 and 2012 periods remained the same, 19, and there were increases in deaths associated with cocaine, methadone and morphine, according to the article.
While these numbers are encouraging, the Miami Herald recently called into question how effective the state’s crackdown on pills has really been. Although many of Florida’s so-called “pill mills” seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article noted.