Tag Archives: Teen deaths

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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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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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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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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Pain pill prescriptions fueling teen addiction: study

teendrugsThere are many reasons why teenagers get hooked on prescription drugs, but new research conducted at the University of Michigan has found that those who are prescribed pain relievers are at “notable risk” for abusing opioid drugs.

A University of Michigan researcher found that teens may develop an increased tolerance to the medication, which can lead to continued use of the drug after the initial prescription is finished.

According to the researcher:

“Once an adolescent has been medically exposed to a potentially addictive medication, adolescents are more likely to engage in nonmedical use and diversion, including buying, selling and giving away pills.”

Earlier this year, a separate study found that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime – a 33% increase over the past five years – up from 18% in 2008.

Of those kids who said they abused prescription medications, one in five (20%) had done so before age 14, that survey found.

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Prescription drugs took 700 lives in N.J. in 2011, 2012

helpPrescription drugs were implicated in the deaths of more than 700 New Jersey residents in both 2011 and 2012, according to statistics released by the state assistant state medical examiner.

The number of drug deaths in the state rose from 843 in 2010 to 1,027 in 2011 and 1,188 in 2013, according to the medical examiner. The number of deaths caused by prescription drugs alone over the three years varied from 402 in 2010 to 470 in 2011 and 460 in 2012, while the instances in which deaths were caused by a combination of prescription and illicit drugs rose from 180 in 2010 to 231 in 2011 and 262 in 2012.

Earlier this year, an investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.

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Maine heroin deaths up 300% since 2011

heroinfoilDriven by the painkiller addiction epidemic, the number of people in Maine who have died from a heroin overdose each year since 2011 has increased by 300%, according to Harper’s Magazine, which cites data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Some experts say that the trend is partly being fueled by recent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers, which has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this recent article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England, including in Maine.

Earlier this year, a report found that more than one-third of the prescription drugs stolen from Maine pharmacies are taken by employees. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of state disciplinary records revealed that from 2003 to 2013, 16 pharmacists and 41 pharmacy technicians lost their licenses for stealing drugs from pharmacy shelves or from the patients whose prescriptions they filled.

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Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.

The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

As this editorial notes, despite the widespread nature of painkiller and heroin abuse, those who are addicted continue to be stigmatized.

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