Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Pa. tightens opioid prescribing guidelines

PrescriptionPennsylvania — which ranks 14th in the nation in prescription overdose deaths — has unveiled new emergency room opioid prescribing guidelines in an attempt to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse.

The new guidelines state that emergency room doctors should limit prescriptions for short-acting opioid painkillers to a week’s supply, and should not prescribe OxyContin, methadone or extended-release morphine without coordinating with the patient’s primary care physician.

According to the guidelines:

Opioid analgesics may be necessary for the relief of pain, but improper use of opioids poses a threat to the individual and to society. Providers have a responsibility to diagnose and treat pain using sound clinical judgment, and such treatment may include the prescribing of opioids. Providers also have a responsibility to minimize the potential for the abuse and diversion of opioids. Therefore, providers should use proper safeguards to minimize the potential for abuse and diversion of opioids.

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every adult in the U.S. to have a bottle of pills, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Pa. sees huge uptick in heroin-related deaths

fentanylIn Pennsylvania — which ranks among the top 10 states in per capita heroin and opioid deaths— more than 3,000 residents have died from heroin and multi-drug overdoses since 2009, according to this article.

Heroin has recently been dramatically rising in popularity in Pennsylvania: four years ago, 20% of those newly admitted for drug treatment cited heroin as their primary substance of abuse, but the rate has since increased to 23.5%, and the state has about 40,000 heroin users.

Nationwide, the number of people using heroin nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 to some 669,000 people. Painkiller addicts across the U.S. are turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce, according to a letter published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Three researchers examined the effect of the abuse-deterrent formulation on the abuse of OxyContin and other opioids, surveying 2,566 people seeking treatment for abuse of or dependence on opioid drugs. Although 24% found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant properties of the abuse-deterrent formulation, 66% indicated a switch to another opioid, with heroin the most common response.

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Heroin and pills overtake Philly: series

heroinfoilIn Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, an increase in opiate use is leading to a spike in heroin use — and that heroin is plentiful, more pure, and more affordable than ever before, according to an investigational series by the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer. The majority of people arrested for dealing drugs in the suburbs are doing it to supplement their own addiction, the series reveals, while dealers that have historically stayed in the urban venue have made a business decision to instead travel to the outskirts and suburbs of the city to take the product to the user.

Unfortunately, the series notes, efforts to crack down on the illegal diversion of prescription pills in the area have resulted in a new marketplace for heroin. Says one official:

As we do a better job addressing abuse of opioid prescription drugs, users currently hooked on those will most likely turn to heroin as a cheaper, purer, albeit deadlier, alternative.

The series also notes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to opiate addiction, but points out that some addicts are finding relief through Vivitrol, a monthly injection of naltrexone that blocks the euphoric and pain-relieving effects of heroin and most other opioids.

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Kentucky, Pennsylvania see rise in heroin abuse

The nationwide spike in heroin abuse in the wake of the painkiller addiction epidemic reared its head in two more areas this week. Law enforcement officials in Kentucky are reporting a dramatic rise in the number of arrests and seizures related to heroin, according to this article. Kentucky State Police submitted 451 suspected heroin samples to its lab in 2010; by 2011, that number had increased to 749, and through September 2012, state police had submitted 1,074 cases to the lab, the article notes. And in Pennsylvania, heroin-related deaths in Allegheny County increased from 62 in 2008 to 95 in 2011, this article says.

Painkiller addicts across the nation are turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce, according to a letter published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine. Three researchers examined the effect of the abuse-deterrent formulation on the abuse of OxyContin and other opioids, surveying 2,566 people seeking treatment for abuse of or dependence on opioid drugs. Although 24 percent found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant properties of the abuse-deterrent formulation, 66 percent indicated a switch to another opioid, with heroin the most common response.

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Across the nation, heroin abuse spikes due to pill epidemic

The rise of prescription drug addiction has led to a corresponding increase in heroin abuse, with painkiller addicts turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce. And while the official statistics are slowly catching up to the reality, the best evidence of this trend comes from the trenches. The Denver Post has a heartbreaking new series detailing the lives of several young heroin addicts on the streets of Denver, while these recent articles examine the increase in heroin abuse in New Jersey, Maine, California, and Pennsylvania.

One huge factor behind the switch to heroin is the reformulation of OxyContin, one of the most commonly abused painkillers.

The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that heroin use has risen to 239,000 users in 2010 from 213,000 in 2008 – likely as a result of painkiller addicts switching to the street drug.


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