Tag Archives: overdoses

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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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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Vt. heroin ODs doubled in past year

needle ODWhat 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.

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Ky. to receive $32M for drug abuse treatment

money and pillsMore 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.

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N.J. police to carry Narcan

naloxone-hcl-narcanIn 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.

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In Ohio, suburban heroin deaths on the rise

overdoseIn Ohio, prescription drug addiction is increasingly putting young, educated suburbanites on the path to heroin addiction. According to this article, these addicts are flooding detox centers, rehab facilities and jails — and are also ending up in the morgue in record numbers. Statewide, nearly 500 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013 alone, and the number of heroin-related deaths has more than doubled in the past three years in a majority of Ohio counties, from 292 in 2010 to 606 in 2012, the article says.

Many other states are seeing an increase in heroin abuse following the rise in prescription drug addiction, including Indiana, North Dakota, and New Jersey, among others.

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