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Tag Archives: Teen deaths
Like many other areas of the nation affected by painkiller abuse, Lexington, Kentucky has been gripped by a wave of heroin-related deaths in recent months. According to this article, the trend has prompted law enforcement officials to consider carrying naloxone, a medication that reverses opiate overdoses. The Lexington Police Department is reviewing a training regimen and protocol that would enable it to place the kits in patrol cars, and is researching whether or not it would be legal for police to administer the drug to a third party, the article says.
Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.
Many states have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose. Some of these laws extend both to people seeking assistance for themselves and for others.
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.
Suburban teens have been scoring heroin on Chicago’s West Side since the 1990s, but heroin-related deaths have dramatically increased in recent years, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune, which cites statistics provided by county coroners. According to the article, experts attribute the spike to a combination of factors, including its cheap price, its availability, and the fact that syringes are no longer needed to inject the drug due to its purity, eliminating fear of needles as a deterrent.
Some of the article’s disturbing statistics:
In 2012, Lake County’s death toll reached a five-year high of 33, while heroin killed 27 people in Kane County, up from two in 2006, records show.
DuPage County’s numbers nearly doubled from 23 in 2007, the furthest its records go back, to 43 in 2012.
Heroin killed 53 Will County residents last year, more than traffic accidents and homicides combined, leading one coroner to call the drug “archenemy No. 1.”
McHenry County had 16 heroin deaths in 2012, the highest total since 2008. Cook County could not provide statistics that isolate heroin from other opiates, but the medical examiner said it remains a steady problem with an estimated one to two heroin deaths a day.
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.
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.
Heroin use and related deaths have increased significantly across Washington state over the past decade — and the trend is especially prevalent among people under age 30, who are finding it cheaper and easier to get heroin than prescription opiates these days, according to this article.
The article cites a new study by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, which found that drug treatment admissions for heroin increased statewide from 2,647 in 2002 to 7,500 in 2012. The majority of 18- to-29-year-olds seeking drug treatment for the first time in 2012 were being treated for heroin use, the study also found.
In addition, the number of accidental deaths statewide involving heroin and prescribed opiates doubled from an average of 310 a year between 2000 and 2002 and 607 a year from 2009 to 2011, according to the study.
The article notes that the data from Washington mirrors a national trend, even though the most up-to-date national research is a few years behind Washington:
A National Institutes of Health study cites numbers from 2009 that show a national rise in opiate addiction and overdoses. The authors of that study, which was published in February 2013 in the Public Library of Science journal, predicted heroin use would likely increase as a result.
In 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.
In New Jersey, where drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death, one county is experiencing a massive uptick in heroin overdoses as prescription painkiller addicts make the switch to the illegal street drug. In two years, heroin has claimed at least 50 lives in Bergen County and has its grasp on hundreds more who became hooked through painkillers such as OxyContin and Opana, according to this article. As compared to pills, heroin, at $5 per bag, is far cheaper, potent, and widely available, the article notes.
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, according to the article.
Legislators in New Jersey are currently considering implementing a law that would grant immunity to those who dispense and administer naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of overdoses from opiates like OxyContin and heroin. The Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act would allow medical providers to prescribe naloxone and allow people to administer the drug to overdose victims without fear of being prosecuted. It would also require 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. Eight other states have similar laws.
Hospira, the sole manufacturer of opiate overdose reverser naloxone, has jacked up the price of the antidote by 1,110% since 2008, threatening the sustainability of overdose prevention programs nationwide, according to this article. Naloxone distribution programs have handed out more than 53,000 naloxone kits and report over 10,000 overdose reversals since 1996, the article notes — but in the past two years alone, almost 10% of the distribution programs have closed their doors, causing overdose deaths to start to bounce back up.
Possible solutions: the FDA could allow temporary importation of naloxone from foreign manufacturers, the federal government could lower prices by enticing new pharmaceutical companies to enter the market through a fast-track approval process, or the FDA could give the green light to naloxone for over-the-counter use so that people who need it can purchase directly from pharmacies, the article says.
Of course, Hospira could also lower the price of naloxone, which is a $20-million-a-year industry: it would cost a mere $100,000 for Hospira to supply every harm reduction program in the country with enough naloxone to meet current capacity, the article points out.
Florida’s crackdown on pill mills has dried up the supply of pills to much of the East Coast, with the unintended consequence of fueling heroin abuse. As this article notes, the rise in heroin use on Cape Cod “follows a predictable course seen nationwide: when the pills disappear, heroin sweeps in.”
Between Feb. 26 and March 30, the Cape saw at least eight drug-related deaths; in the same period, police responded to another four suspected heroin overdoses in which the person was revived, the article says.
A few years ago, most cases handled by the Cape Cod Drug Task Force involved pills, but now the police estimate that as much as 95% of their caseload is heroin-related, according to the article.
The trend highlights the fallout from Florida’s efforts to turn around its reputation as the nation’s epicenter of prescription drug abuse. On the bright side, the tougher regulations resulted in the number of pill mills in the 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.