Tag Archives: oxy-to-heroin

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 addicts facing treatment barriers

drug moneyThe rise in heroin addiction across the nation, fueled by the prescription drug addiction epidemic, has caused an uptick in the number of people in need of inpatient treatment services — but many who need help are contending with a shortage of services and constraints placed on care by insurance companies. The increase in demand for treatment has left many addicts to wait weeks in some cases for care because of denial from their insurance companies, according to this article. Before insurance companies agree to cover inpatient services they want evidence that an addict has tried one or more outpatient programs, has little or no outside support network, and has a health condition that makes treatment a medical necessity, the article says.

Previously, a typical inpatient program lasted a month and the average detox program ran seven to 10 days; these days, as a result of insurance companies scaling back their coverage and increasing their deductibles, inpatient services generally run 10 days and detoxes three to five days — and most insurers will only pay for up to 10 days, the article says.

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Ga. pharmacy robberies rise after pill mill crackdown

gunPharmacy officials in Georgia are reporting that robberies are occurring with greater frequency in light of the state’s recent crackdown on pill mills. According to this article, Georgia became a pill mill magnet after neighboring states, including Florida, passed tougher laws regulating pain clinics.

Georgia lawmakers passed similar legislation last year requiring pain clinics to be licensed by the state medical board and owned by physicians, and the state also launched a prescription drug monitoring program, the article says. As the pill mills have dwindled, pharmacy officials say people who have addictions are being forced to seek drugs elsewhere, leading to the spike in robberies, the article says.

In 2010 alone, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office reported there were 560 prescription drug-related deaths in the 152 of 159 counties for which it performs autopsies — at least a 10 percent increase since 2009.

Florida’s efforts to combat painkiller abuse resulted in the number of pill mills in that state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article. In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.

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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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Fentanyl-laced heroin may be behind rise in ODs

fentanylAuthorities 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.)

The investigation into the rise of fentanyl-laced heroin comes as authorities are looking into the apparent overdose death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this week.

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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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