President Trump Plans to Declare National Emergency in Response to Opioid Crisis

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 10, 2017

Following the recent recommendation of the White House’s opioid commission, President Trump announced today that the Administration is moving to declare a national emergency on opioid abuse.

Jessica Nickel, President and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum, released this statement in response to the announcement:

“We applaud President Trump for taking this important step today to declare a national emergency on this crisis. This declaration can help communities with flexibility and resources to help implement a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic. Every day we are losing 144 people to drug overdoses — 144 daughters, sons, mothers, sisters and fathers. We can do better for our families and communities.”

In June, the Addiction Policy Forum testified before Governor Christie and the White House’s Opioid Commission and presented 63 recommendations spanning the six key pillars of a comprehensive response. For full testimony and video click here.

Link to article here: President Trump Plans to Declare National Emergency in Response to Opioid Crisis

Short Answers to Hard Questions About the Opioid Crisis

This week, President Trump’s commission on combating the opioid crisis, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, recommended that the president declare a national emergency.

The problem has become significantly worse recently, so you might feel that you could use a little catching up. Here are 11 things you need to know.

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1. How bad is it?
It’s the deadliest drug crisis in American history.
2. What is an “opioid”?
Something that acts on opioid receptors in the nervous system.

That’s not really a helpful answer.

The first such drug, and the one from which the opioid receptors get their name, was opium. Opium, a narcotic obtained from a kind of poppy, has been used in human societies for thousands of years. From opium people derived a whole host of other drugs with similar properties: first morphine, then heroin, then prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. Opium along with all of these derivatives are collectively known as opiates.

Then there are a handful of compounds that act just like opiates but aren’t made from the plant. Opiates along with these synthetic drugs — chiefly methadone and fentanyl — are grouped together into the category of substances called opioids.

Opioid receptors regulate pain and the reward system in the human body. That makes opioids powerful painkillers, but also debilitatingly addictive.

3. So is this crisis about prescription painkillers or heroin?
 Both.

The crisis has its roots in the overprescription of opioid painkillers, but since 2011 overdose deaths from prescription opioids have leveled off. Deaths from heroin and fentanyl, on the other hand, are rising fast. In several states where the drug crisis is particularly severe, including Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, fentanyl is now involved in over half of all overdose fatalities.

While heroin and fentanyl are the primary killers now, experts agree that the epidemic will not stop without halting the flow of prescription opioids that got people hooked in the first place.

4. Show me one way the epidemic has changed.
Sure.

The latest iteration of the opioid epidemic has been especially deadly among adults in their 20s and early 30s.

In 2000, the most common age for drug deaths, including those not involving opioids, was around 40. This was the generation that first grew addicted to prescription opioids in large numbers — white people especially so. Now there’s evidence that the opioid epidemic is dividing into two waves, with a new group of younger drug users growing addicted to, and dying from, heroin or fentanyl rather than prescription pills.

5. Where is the worst of the problem?

The Midwest, Appalachia and New England. For now.

There’s a lot of geographic variation in the rate of drug deaths, with the highest overdose rates clustered in Appalachia, the Rust Belt and New England.

Teasing out the reasons for the geographical differences is not easy. In certain places, the ways in which people use drugs could be more dangerous (you’re more likely to die from injecting heroin than you are from smoking it, for example).

But it’s clear that a significant portion of the variation in deaths, if not necessarily in use, is being driven by the appearance of fentanyl in the drug supply. Fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, affects heroin users and pill users both, the latter often falling victim to counterfeit pills that look like prescription painkillers.

So far, the white population has been hardest hit, but this is beginning to change. Several critics have been quick to point out that the country’s response was not nearly as public-health-oriented during the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s, which disproportionately affected African-Americans.

6. Why has this problem gotten so much worse in recent years?

Decades of opioid overprescription, an influx of cheap heroin and the emergence of fentanyl.  Addiction to opioids goes back centuries, but the current crisis really starts in the 1980s. A handful of highly influential journal articles relaxed long-standing fears among doctors about prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The pharmaceutical industry took note, and in the mid-1990s began aggressively marketing drugs like OxyContin. This aggressive and at times fraudulent marketing, combined with a new focus on patient satisfaction and the elimination of pain, sharply increased the availability of pharmaceutical narcotics.

Pill mills began popping up around the country as communities were flooded with prescription opioids. Over the next decade, a growing number of people grew addicted to the drugs, whether from prescriptions or from taking them recreationally. For many, what started with pills evolved into a heroin addiction.

At the same time, the heroin market was changing. The price plummeted. Newly decentralized drug distribution networks pushed heroin and counterfeit pharmaceuticals into suburban and rural areas where they had never been. Everywhere the suppliers went, they found a ready and willing customer base, primed for addiction by decades of prescription opiate use.

Then in 2014, fentanyl began entering the drug supply in large amounts.

7. What is fentanyl and why is it killing people?
It’s a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin.

Heroin is derived from opium, a plant. That means its growers need fields and labor to harvest the crop. They are tied to land, weather and time.

Fentanyl is purely synthetic. Think chemistry, not agriculture. It’s commonly used for surgical anesthesia and is prescribed to treat pain, but almost all of the fentanyl on the streets is illicitly manufactured. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the majority of illicit fentanyl in the United States is manufactured either in China or in Mexico using precursors bought from China. And at least some portion of it comes to the United States in the mail, ordered from dark web sources like the recently shuttered AlphaBay. But we don’t know how much.

Fentanyl is a fine-grained powder, meaning that it’s easy to mix into other drugs. This is how most people are exposed to illicit fentanyl: It will be mixed into, or made to look like, powdered heroin or it will be used to produce counterfeit prescription pills.

It’s super potent, meaning you’re dealing with very small quantities. That makes it almost impossible to control supply. Though most of the fentanyl in America is thought to originate in China, the fact that it’s synthetic means it’s much harder to know where the drugs are coming from. With heroin, investigators could rely on regionally specific chemical markers to indicate where the drugs had been produced. With drugs synthesized in a lab, it’s harder to tell.

8. Why would people take fentanyl? It does not sound fun.  

Many aren’t intending to.

From a dealer’s perspective, fentanyl is easier to get and more profitable to sell. Some law enforcement officials argue that drug users will seek out batches of drugs that contain fentanyl or that are known to have killed people, as that demonstrates the drugs’ potency.

While that is certainly true for some number of drug users, research suggests that they are a minority. Most are exposed to fentanyl inadvertently — it’s difficult to know just what is in the drugs they are buying (many dealers don’t know themselves), one more risk in a dangerous pursuit of a high.

For long-time drug users, their continued use underlines the grip of addiction and the agony of withdrawal: They know it could kill them but do it anyway. Casual drug users are also at risk of fentanyl poisoning, particularly with increased reports of fentanyl-adulterated cocaine.

9. So shouldn’t we just stop prescribing opioids?
No.

Opioids are a vital component of modern medicine that have measurably improved the quality of life for millions of people, particularly cancer patients and those with acute pain. But their efficacy in treating chronic pain is less clear, especially when weighed against the risks of overdose and addiction.

Though prescription opioid consumption has been decreasing in the United States since 2010 or 2011, it remains high. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, if the amount of opioids prescribed per year were averaged out over each person living in America, everyone would get about a two-week supply. (Or a three-week supply, according to the C.D.C. Different ways of measuring what counts as a daily opioid dose give different values.) Either way you count, it’s higher than anywhere else in the world.

At the same time, some chronicpainpatientsnow struggle to fill their prescriptions. Solving the opioid problem requires controlling prescription opioid distribution while maintaining access for patients with legitimate medical needs. Suddenly removing access to opioids from those who are dependent on them to function could easily push people to illicit opioid sources, like heroin or counterfeit pills.

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10. What can be done?

There’s no silver bullet.

Experts agree fixing the opioid epidemic will take a combination of solutions. But it’s a question of priorities: Which approaches will be most effective and most efficient? What is the best use of resources?

Officials want to use state prescription drug monitoring programsto reduce the supply of prescription opioids that end up being used recreationally while maintaining adequate access for current chronic pain patients. More broadly, experts say we need to improve the way our medical system manages pain. Remember the 12 million people we said took prescription painkillers outside of medical use? Roughly two-thirds of those did so to relieve physical pain. A more holistic approach to pain treatment would lessen the need for opioids.

On the treatment side, experts stress the importance of having treatment readily available for those who are already addicted. Often that means going to where the people are, not waiting for them to seek out treatment themselves. And addiction treatment doesn’t just mean counseling or an inpatient clinic. Studies show the most effective treatment for opioid addiction often requires opioid medications like methadone or buprenorphine.

In the meantime, widespread distribution of naloxone — an overdose antidote — will save lives in acute cases.

There isn’t agreement about other possible measures that could help. Public health experts advocate things like safe injection sites, where people could use drugs under medical supervision, and drug checking services that people could use to test drugs for fentanyl, but many in law enforcement remain reluctant to adopt such measures.

11. Will the commission’s recommendations help?
Maybe, but only if they’re adopted. The commission laid out a series of recommendations in its interim report, with a final report expected in October.

Some of the recommendations — like enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs and mandatory physician education on the dangers of opioids — are aimed at prevention. Some — expanding access to and funding development of medication-assisted treatment, eliminating Medicaid barriers to in-patient addiction treatment and enforcing laws that prevent health insurance companies from limiting mental health coverage — are aimed at treatment. The commission’s report also called upon the president to mandate that naloxone be carried by every American law enforcement officer.

Of course, these are only recommendations. It’s up to the president and the various executive agencies to implement them. Experts know how to attack the problem. It’s just a matter of having the will to put those policies into practice.

Link to the original article with an accompanying interactive graph and charts here:

Short Answers to Hard Questions About the Opioid Crisis

 

Author: Josh Katz

Major Science Report Lays Out a Plan to Tamp Down Opioid Crisis

The National Academies report includes recommendations for federal agencies, states and medical personnel.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration screens new opioid drugs it should better anticipate how people might abuse them in the real world, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine warns in a major report issued Thursday on the country’s opioid crisis, which kills 91 people a day—often via overdoses on prescription drugs. The FDA needs to move beyond its traditional focus on clinical studies about drug effectiveness and side effects, and to seek public health data on potential abuse, the Academies advises in its 400-page proposal for targeting the deadly issue.

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The FDA had asked for the report, and its release comes as several states are suing pharmaceutical companies over allegations that they downplayed the addictive nature of certain prescription painkillers and helped fuel the current crisis. “The focus of the request from the FDA was for advice on what they could do to evaluate [opioids] more completely before approving them for use,” says Stanford University anesthesiology professor David Clark, a member of the Academies committee that drafted the report. A key recommendation, Clark says, is for “the FDA to move beyond its standard matrix of considerations for drug safety and—at least for opioids—move into a more public health–centered matrix of considerations which could help us predict what might happen for people beyond the intended recipient of the drug.”

The 18-member committee, which worked on the report for more than a year, identified specific steps that states, federal agencies and medical providers should take to stem the tide of abuse of substances including heroin, fentanyl and prescription drugs—even as they ensure pain patients have access to legal relief. Any policy that aims to restrict lawful access to prescription opioids would drive some people toward the illegal market, the report warns. Instead it urges states, regulators and public health agencies to work toward universal access to evidence-based interventions for substance abuse, including treatment programs and full coverage of medications approved to fight addiction. The report calls for expanding access to the overdose antidote naloxone to laypeople, and also says jurisdictions should explicitly authorize syringe exchange as well as their sale or distribution. “Reducing the scope of the epidemic of opioid addiction is my highest immediate priority as commissioner,” the FDA’s Scott Gottlieb said in an e-mailed statement. “I was encouraged to see that many of [the Academies’] recommendations for the FDA are in areas where we’ve made new commitments.”

The Academies’ report also recommends increasing the FDA’s formal reevaluations of opioid approval decisions, in order to ensure that the drugs’ benefits still outweigh the risks. It advises the FDA and other federal health agencies to improve their data tracking on pain and opioid use, and to invest more money in research for a clearer picture of the opioid epidemic—and for potential ways to combat it, such as programs that track prescribing and dispensing information.

Officials battling the crisis on the ground applauded some of the Academies’ findings. “The report is in line with the work we are already doing in Baltimore City,” says Leana Wen, the city’s public health commissioner. “We have had needle exchange programs for over 20 years, and we also have a very aggressive naloxone program.” The report focuses on improving research and regulatory actions before a prescription drug hits the market, Wen notes. “All these are important, but I continue to emphasize what I see on the frontlines—a need for increased access to treatment that is evidence-based and well established.” With naloxone’s price rising and a shortage of substance abuse treatment beds, these are crucial needs, she says.

The report also says states should take specific actions, such as creating more year-round programs in which pharmacies or other establishments take back unused prescription painkillers—so they do not sit around patients’ houses, where they might be abused or stolen. (According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of young people who inject heroin abused prescription opioids first.) “The concerns on this point are more impetus rather than obstacle,” Clark says. “It is not uncommon to have drug take-back programs through churches, pharmacies, universities, and public interest groups and community organizations. But none of those organizations are set up to do that kind of thing on an ongoing basis.” Some pharmacies have already moved in this direction by setting up drop boxes to dispose of old drugs when someone comes in to fill a new prescription, he adds.

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also aims to come up with concrete recommendations. It was scheduled to release an interim report last month but has not done so, and now expects to put the report out at the end of this month, around its next meeting. “The Commission is continuing to look at how the administration can best address this unprecedented crisis and will be releasing its [final] report in October,” Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told Scientific American in an e-mailed statement. “The Trump administration is committed to addressing the opioid epidemic,” Baum wrote, and in just six months it has “sent nearly $500 million to the states to address the epidemic locally, begun work on the president’s first National Drug Control Strategy and established the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.” (The latest version of the Senate health care bill, released Thursday, also would include $45 billion to help support substance abuse treatment.)

Addressing the opioid epidemic requires action in the medical and patient community as well, the Academies’ committee says. It advises states to create better pain education materials for medical schools, medical licensing boards and the public. States and the federal government should also work in concert to help boost access to medication for addiction—and to make sure patients can afford it, the report says. Managing the opioid crisis is a balancing act requiring trade-offs when it comes to restricting the lawful opioid supply, influencing prescriber practices, cutting demand and reducing harm, the committee members wrote. Yet they add that their proposal should, “leave adequate space for responsible prescribing and reasonable access for patients and physicians who believe an opioid is medically necessary.”

Article by: Dina Fine Maron on July 13, 2017

Link to article here: Major Science Report Lays Out a Plan to Tamp Down Opioid Crisis

Imprisoning Drug Offenders Doesn’t Affect Use, Study Says

Sending more people to prison for drug offenses won’t have an effect on drug use and deaths, according to a new analysis released this week.

Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trusts crunched state-by-state data on drug imprisonment, drug use, overdoses and drug arrests and found no evidence that they affected one another.

That lack of a pattern shows the flaw in a central philosophy in the war on drugs: That doling out harsh penalties makes people less inclined to use drugs or join the drug trade, said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s public safety performance project, which works to reform state-level drug policies.

“There seems to be this assumption that tougher penalties will send a stronger message and deter people from involvement with drugs. This is not borne out by the data,” Gelb said.

He included the entire analysis in a letter Monday to Chris Christie, who is both governor of New Jersey and head of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

The commission held its first public meeting on Friday. It is responsible for coming up with a plan to help the federal government tackle an addiction crisis that killed more than 50,000 people last year. The growing number of overdoses is being driven by runaway rates of addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin, researchers say.

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A line of inmates at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Men’s Central Jail, on October 27, 2011. Reed Saxon / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Meanwhile at the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is carving out his own approach — focused on punishment.  He issued a memo to federal prosecutors in May ordering them to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses, a return to harsh policies that predate former President Barack Obama.

Pew’s study was relatively simple: gather data from each state in four categories: incarceration of drug offenders, overdose deaths, drug arrests and drug use. The latest year for which all the data was available was 2014.

The theory, Gelb said, was that if deterrence worked, the states with the highest incarceration rates would have lower rates of drug use.

But that’s not what they found.

For example, Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate, was in the middle of the pack on overdoses, drug arrests and drug use. Massachusetts, with the lowest incarceration rate, was toward the bottom in arrests and use, but near the top in overdoses. West Virginia, with the highest overdose rate, was 21st in incarcerations. And Colorado, with the highest rate of drug use, was 37th in incarcerations.

Gelb said he hoped the commission and other policy makers would use it to chart their course forward.

“This is fresh data that should inform the important conversation happening in Washington and around the country about what the most effective strategies are for combatting the rise in opioid addiction and other substance abuse,” Gelb said.

by posted June 20, 2017

Link to original article here: Imprisoning Drug Offenders Doesn’t Affect Use, Study Says

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Lives Lost: One story of opioid recovery

Lisa is alive today because of new tactics in the fight against opioid addiction.

CANTON, OH Every morning, Lisa dissolves a pill under her tongue. She doesn’t mind the flavor: chalky, like children’s aspirin, with a hint of orange.

The pill is Suboxone, a medication that helps Lisa control her cravings for opioids. After years of abusing prescription pills and heroin, and surviving more than a dozen overdoses, she has been sober four months and counting.

Her bills are paid. There is food in the refrigerator. She spends time with her children.

“I’m happy, actually,” Lisa said. “This is the best things have been in a long, long time.”

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But her story is about more than a pill. Lisa is alive and in recovery because Stark County embraced new techniques to fight an opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds locally and thousands across the state.

Medication-assisted treatment, outreach by police officers, the wide-spread use of overdose-reversing naloxone and peer support all played a role in Lisa’s story.

Lisa is 51 years old and lives in Canton. She agreed to speak with The Canton Repository on the condition her last name not be used because of concerns regarding her past associates.

Lisa almost didn’t make it to this point. By her own count, she overdosed at least nine times that landed her in a hospital. That number doesn’t include the dozen or so times her teenage son waited anxiously at her side to blast overdose-reversing naloxone up her nose.

“He saved my life more times than I know,” she said.

Lisa started smoking marijuana when she was 13 years old. In her 20s, she started using methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription pills. Vicodin was the first opioid she tried. Her mother gave her the pill to ease a headache.

“That was the miracle cure for hangovers after that,” Lisa said.

Sometime later, a pain management doctor prescribed Lisa opioids such as Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin for migraines and pain related to scar tissue. The doctor didn’t ask about her past drug use, she said.

Lisa had a medicine cabinet full of opioids, but she would blow through a month’s worth of pills in a few weeks. The first pain management doctor ultimately dropped Lisa after she got an opioid prescription from a dentist. She found another clinic, but authorities shut it down.

Drugs such as heroin, cocaine or opioid painkillers flood the brain with dopamine, causing a feeling of pleasure. Food, sex and exercise also release dopamine, but can’t compete with surge from the drugs.

Over time, drug use depletes the amount of dopamine in the brain. Addiction takes hold and the brain’s structure changes.

“They have to seek substances to fill that gap,” said Dr. Jamesetta Lewis, of Mercy Medical Center’s Pain Management Center. “That’s when an addiction develops. They have to get more and more substances to bridge that dopamine gap the brain can’t fill itself.”

Unable to get pills, Lisa used heroin. That was about eight years ago. Heroin was cheaper than pills and stronger. She used every day. When she heard about someone overdosing, she’d try to buy the same stuff.

“I never cared if I died,” Lisa said. “I never cared. I just didn’t care. And if I was going to die, that was the way to do it because it was completely painless. You just go to sleep.”

Addiction consumed her life and hurt those closest to her. Her adult daughter started using opioids. Lisa’s teenage son worried every time he left the house or went to school that he’d return to find her dead or in jail. At night he skipped sleep to make sure she didn’t die.

“Growing up seeing your family do that, it does something to you,” he said.

Ready for help

Two Canton Police narcotics officers knocked on Lisa’s door one day this winter.

Detective Mike Rastetter and a supervisor were checking complaints about drug activity at Lisa’s home. They knew Lisa from all the times she had overdosed.

“She looked skin and bones,” Rastetter said. “She looked really bad.”

Lisa was sick from withdrawal and desperate when they knocked. What she didn’t know at the time was that the department had told officers to look for ways to help people addicted to drugs get treatment.

Lisa told the detectives she was going to die if she didn’t get help. They started making calls. About four hours later, Lisa was in a detox bed at the Crisis Intervention & Recovery Center.

“We were fortunate enough that day that it was available,” Rastetter said.

Medication-assisted treatment

Addiction treatment can take different forms. After a week of detox, Lisa went to CommQuest Services’ Regional Center For Opiate Recovery in Massillon, which opened in 2015 specifically to treat opioid addiction. Since then, it has received 2,500 unduplicated referrals from more than 20 counties.

“We talk about recovery being a process of learning to enjoy life and repairing the damage you did while you were using and improving the overall quality of your life,” said CommQuest President and CEO Keith Hochadel.

Lisa’s treatment plan combined counseling and 12-step meetings with daily doses of Suboxone, a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine, an opioid. Suboxone reduces the euphoria and cravings associated with opioids so a patient can focus on recovery.

The thought of getting high is always in her mind, Lisa said, but she counts to 20 and thinks about something else and the craving passes.

“I can function every day,” Lisa said. “I function.”

Starting this month, Stark Mental Health and Addiction Recovery will use two-thirds of a $741,000 federal and local funding package to expand treatment with Suboxone and Vivitrol, a medication that blocks an opioid from making the user high.

But the local treatment community has realized that treating addiction involves more than medication and counseling sessions. Men and women in recovery need help to rebuild their lives and the best guide can be a person who has walked the same road.

Rebuilding lives

When Lisa started at ReCOR, she had to go to Massillon every day to get her dose of Suboxone. She couldn’t drive and everyone she knew who had a car was using drugs. She was able to get a ride with a peer supporter from Stark County TASC.

Peer supporters are individuals in recovery who are trained to help others addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“You actually know what they’re talking about,” said Nicole Osborne, who oversees TASC’s peer supporters. “You actually know where they’re coming from. You didn’t just read it in a book in school.”

Three times a week peer supporters from TASC visit individuals detoxing at the Crisis Center. Rides to treatment appointments are just some of the help they offer.

People addicted to alcohol or drugs put everything else in their lives on hold, Osborne said.

When she meets a new client, she asks the woman about her “life to-do list,” the things she’s avoided or ignored for months or years. That can be getting a driver’s license, finding a home, clearing up arrest warrants or getting a job.

“You need the basics of life,” Osborne said. “You need to know where you’re going to sleep that night. It’s hard to even think about being sober or not using drugs if you don’t have a place to live or no food.”

Peer supporters also link clients to others who can help them stay sober.

Lisa said teaming with a peer supporter removed any excuses she might have had for not going to treatment.

“You don’t have a reason to say, ‘I can’t do it,’” she said.

Police outreach

Lisa is drug-tested regularly in the ReCOR program and said she goes to 12-step meetings almost daily.

Rastetter stops and checks on Lisa and her family about once a month. Right now he’s trying to find her a job.

The 11-year Canton police veteran said he never thought his job would include navigating the maze of addiction services, insurance and housing assistance. Finding local resources on the fly is a challenge, he said, but it’s getting better.

“It’s worth a chance,” Rastetter said. “If we save two or three people’s lives and they get off heroin, then it’s worth it. It really is.”

Lisa is one of about five people the police have helped get into detox, and the department is trying to assist more.

Taking a cue from communities such as Mansfield, Akron and Green, Canton police started a Recovery Response Team in late June. The team includes police, a caseworker from TASC and a Crisis Center nurse. Every week, the team visits individuals who recently overdosed.

“The jails are not equipped to deal with addiction recovery, and I think that looking at this from a health care standpoint and as a health care crisis is very important,” said Lt. John Gabbard, who oversees the initiative.

The police will still pursue drug dealers, but Gabbard asked for patience from residents who might not understand the new approach toward individuals using drugs.

“Give us a chance to convince you that taking the long-term approach of getting them help will be more beneficial to the neighborhood than trying to evict them into someone else’s neighborhood and not dealing with that problem,” Gabbard said.

Looking forward

Now that Lisa’s life isn’t ruled by a daily hustle for drugs, she has a lot of things she wants to do.

She wants to get a job and more furniture for her home. She wants to drive again. She wants to spend time with her family, including her daughter who is now in recovery.

Her plan is to “do things and make memories,” Lisa said. “Ones that I can remember and ones where everybody’s happy.

Relapse is always a risk, and with opioids, the consequence of one slip can be fatal.

Her kids were proud of her recovery.

“Not everyone is as lucky as her to where you can OD as many times as she did and be alive to this day,” her son said.

Article written by: Shane Hoover, Cantonrep.com staff writer

Link to original article here: Lives Lost: One story of opioid recovery

OHSAM president, Dr. Ryan, is the featured speaker in this podcast where they interview experts about addiction and addiction education. Listen at the 1:30 minute mark!

The Cover2 Podcast is an ongoing series of interviews with people who are making a difference in the fight against opioid addiction.  The Cover2 Podcast seeks to raise awareness and to connect users.

Click here for: Podcast – Dr. Shawn Ryan, MD, MBA, ABEM

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Route to recovery: how people overcome an opioid addiction

More and more people in the US are able to identify a friend, relative or neighbor who has succumbed to opioid addiction as it increasingly damages the nation.

It’s a frightening reality, but there are options available for people hoping to gain control of their condition and live a life that isn’t dictated by these potent drugs.

What are the routes to recovery from addiction? The Guardian explored that question and more as part of a series of pieces this week looking at survivors of addiction and how to tackle it.

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Can opioid addiction be cured?

There is no cure for addiction, but the disease can be managed just like other chronic medical conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.

That’s one of the reasons people who are no longer addicted to drugs or alcohol might describe themselves as being “in recovery”. Recovery means different things to different people but generally describes someone who is able to live life without it being disrupted by addiction.

How do you get to be in recovery from opioid addiction?

There are many routes for addiction treatment but the one with the most scientific support combines medication, counseling and recovery meetings.

“If people do those three things together, their chances of getting onto a path of recovery are significantly better than if they try to detoxify off the heroin or the pills they are taking and try to go immediately go to an abstinence-oriented program, where they are not taking any medication to help them during the early stage of their recovery,” said Samuel Ball, president and CEO at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

How does medication help treat drug addiction?

Medication is used to stabilize people when they quit using opioids. These drugs include opioids like methadone and buprenorphine, which can reduce the painful effects of withdrawal by lowering the amount of opioids people are taking. They can also help people who want to quit using stave off overwhelming cravings.

A third medication treatment, naltrexone, is different in that it blocks the effect of opioids and it has been studied less closely than the other two drugs.

Isn’t using these drugs just substituting one type of opioid drug for another?

No, though the US health secretary Tom Price said it was last month. Price’s comment sparked a furor among health professionals – nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter urging Price to “set the record straight”.

“The perception that persons receiving long-term therapy with medications – especially with buprenorphine and methadone – are not actually in recovery is widespread but grossly inaccurate,” the letter said.

The Department of Health and Human Services then clarified that expanding access to medication-assisted treatments is a key element of the federal government’s plans to curb opioid addiction.

That said, these drugs aren’t perfect. Buprenorphine and methadone can and have been abused by opiate users, which is why it is recommended these drugs be taken alongside other therapies.

What happens if people quit using opioids without medication?

For people who abruptly quit, a cluster of unpleasant symptoms can occur as part of withdrawal: anxiety, body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation.

There is a school of thought that the sheer unpleasantness of withdrawal will push someone out of addiction for good, and that certainly works for some people, but Ball warned it is not something worth betting on.

“I think If you asked me 10 years ago, I might have said detoxing and trying an abstinence-oriented approach, maybe that’s worth a try one time,” said Ball. “And then if that doesn’t work try one of the medications.”

These days, however, Ball said the addiction crisis has “become so life and death” that he thinks medication should be incorporated from the beginning of addiction treatment.

Why can’t people just decide to quit?

There is a narrative, often perpetuated by the media, of people becoming stubborn and quitting on their own once and for all – whether it’s because of a revelation triggered by an emotional low point or, in the case of one person the Guardian spoke with, spending some time in jail where they were forced to withdraw without any support.

“It’s miraculous, and great stories to hear, but I think for many people with opioid addiction, it’s not a realistic thing to plan for, if that kind of epiphany happens for you, it’s wonderful, but you can’t make it happen,” Ball said.

He said the “chances of you staying alive for a longer period of time” are much higher if you access other forms of treatment, particularly medication.

vivitrol

How effective is rehab at treating addiction?

If pop culture is your guide, the answer to addiction can be found at a swanky beach house rehab center in Malibu, California, or sunny Florida.

These centers – just like residential centers in less idyllic locations across the US – can certainly be effective, but they aren’t required to provide evidence-based treatment, so the efficacy varies wildly.

Some centers don’t have a trained physician or psychiatrist on staff around the clock or only offer a couple hours of therapy each week – an insufficient amount for someone who has deemed their problem so severe they aren’t safe at home.

Also, there is a potentially enormous cost tied to rehab that do not always reflect the quality of service. Insurers don’t always cover these programs, and if they do, they limit how long they will cover the service for.

That is a huge problem because addiction experts agree that addiction can’t be resolved in a short period of time.

How long does it take to recover?

This is obviously different from everyone, and must be considered alongside the fact that relapse is common.

Though it would seem like taking up drugs again is a failure, the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (Nida) said relapse is a sign that treatment needs to be adjusted or started again and is certainly not an indication that someone has irreparably harmed their chances of living a life free from addiction.

Relapse is common for 40% to 60% of patients being treated for addiction and 50% to 70% of people with asthma and hypertension, according to the Nida. The agency notes those disease also have physiological and behavioral components people must manage, particularly when experiencing a relapse.

Written by: Amanda Holpuch 6/22/2017

Link to article here: Route to recovery: how people overcome an opioid addiction

 

Rise In Hospital Visits For Opioids Spotlight The Epidemic

The latest government numbers on opioid-related hospitalizations paint a picture of a country in a drug-related crisis. Between 2005 to 2014, emergency room visits stemming from opioid use rose 99 percent and inpatient stays jumped 64 percent, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

EDRoom

In 2014 alone, opioid-related hospitalizations totaled 1.27 million.

The spike in hospital visits was driven largely by people ages 25 to 44. The report by the Rockville, Maryland-based agency also noted gender differences in the way men and women used hospital services.

Women were more likely to have inpatient stays, while men were more likely to visit the ER in 2014.  “Our data tell us what is going on. They tell us what the facts are. But they don’t give us the underlying reasons for what we’re seeing here,” Anne Elixhauser, co-author of the report and senior research scientist at AHRQ, told the Washington Post.

“It is no surprise that opioid-related hospitalizations rose significantly during that time period,” Dr. Peter Friedmann, associate dean for research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and chief research officer at the nonprofit Baystate Health, told HuffPost.

“The surge of opioid use disorder and opioid-related overdose deaths that started in the late ’90s continues unabated in most of the U.S. Overdose deaths are the tip of the iceberg,” Friedmann said.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in June found that between 2010 to 2015, North Carolina hospitals saw a 12-fold increase in patients suffering from endocarditis, an infection of the heart, that was linked to drug dependence.

“As the U.S. opioid epidemic continues to grow, hospitalizations for infectious complications associated with injection drug use are likely to increase,” the report said.

The AHRQ report follows a New York Times Upshot analysis of data from health agencies around the country that estimated drug overdose deaths will top 59,000 in 2016. That’s up from 52,404 overdose deaths in 2015, a 19 percent increase that would be the largest such jump in U.S. history.

According to the Times, the numbers are expected to rise again in 2017.

Link to the original article with informative video here:  Rise In Hospital Visits For Opioids Spotlight The Epidemic

By Erin Shumaker 6/20/2017

Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever

The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

Although the data is preliminary, the Times’s best estimate is that deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017.   Image result for Drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia and San Francisco Drug overdose deaths since 1980 have surged in Philadelphia despite a shrinking population; most heroin there is powdered. They have remained relatively flat in San Francisco, where most heroin is black tar.

Because drug deaths take a long time to certify, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not be able to calculate final numbers until December. The Times compiled estimates for 2016 from hundreds of state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners. Together they represent data from states and counties that accounted for 76 percent of overdose deaths in 2015. They are a first look at the extent of the drug overdose epidemic last year, a detailed accounting of a modern plague.

The initial data points to large increases in drug overdose deaths in states along the East Coast, particularly Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, which filed a lawsuit last week accusing five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic, we estimate overdose deaths increased by more than 25 percent in 2016.

“Heroin is the devil’s drug, man. It is,” Cliff Parker said, sitting on a bench in Grace Park in Akron. Mr. Parker, 24, graduated from high school not too far from here, in nearby Copley, where he was a multisport athlete. In his senior year, he was a varsity wrestler and earned a scholarship to the University of Akron. Like his friends and teammates, he started using prescription painkillers at parties. It was fun, he said. By the time it stopped being fun, it was too late. Pills soon turned to heroin, and his life began slipping away from him.

Mr. Parker’s story is familiar in the Akron area. From a distance, it would be easy to paint Akron — “Rubber Capital of the World” — as a stereotypical example of Rust Belt decay. But that’s far from a complete picture. While manufacturing jobs have declined and the recovery from the 2008 recession has been slow, unemployment in Summit County, where Akron sits, is roughly in line with the United States as a whole. The Goodyear factories have been retooled into technology centers for research and polymer science. The city has begun to rebuild. But deaths from drug overdose here have skyrocketed.

In 2016, Summit County had 312 drug deaths, according to Gary Guenther, the county medical examiner’s chief investigator — a 46 percent increase from 2015 and more than triple the 99 cases that went through the medical examiner’s office just two years before. There were so many last year, Mr. Guenther said, that on three separate occasions the county had to request refrigerated trailers to store the bodies because they’d run out of space in the morgue.It’s not unique to Akron. Coroners’ offices throughout the state are being overwhelmed.

 

Drug overdose deaths in six Ohio counties, 2010 to 2017

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Totals for 2017 assume that overdose deaths continue at the same rate through the remainder of the year. Source: Butler County Coroner’s Office; Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office; Hamilton County Coroner; Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Service; Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office; Summit County Department of the Medical Examiner

In some Ohio counties, deaths from heroin have virtually disappeared. Instead, the culprit is fentanyl or one of its many analogues. In Montgomery County, home to Dayton, of the 100 drug overdose deaths recorded in January and February, only three people tested positive for heroin; 99 tested positive for fentanyl or an analogues.

Fentanyl isn’t new. But over the past three years, it has been popping up in drug seizures across the country.

DrugSeizures

Most of the time, it’s sold on the street as heroin, or drug traffickers use it to make cheap counterfeit prescription opioids. Fentanyls are showing up in cocaine as well, contributing to an increase in cocaine-related overdoses.

The most deadly of the fentanyl analogues is carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer 5,000 times stronger than heroin. An amount smaller than a few grains of salt can be a lethal dose.

“July 5th, 2016 — that’s the day carfentanil hit the streets of Akron,” said Capt. Michael Shearer, the commander of the Narcotics Unit for the Akron Police Department. On that day, 17 people overdosed and one person died in a span of nine hours. Over the next six months, the county medical examiner recorded 140 overdose deaths of people testing positive for carfentanil. Just three years earlier, there were fewer than a hundred drug overdose deaths of any kind for the entire year.

This exponential growth in overdose deaths in 2016 didn’t extend to all parts of the country. In some states in the western half of the U.S., our data suggests deaths may have leveled off or even declined. According to Dr. Dan Ciccarone, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and an expert in heroin use in the United States, this geographic variation may reflect a historical divide in the nation’s heroin market between the powdered heroin generally found east of the Mississippi River and the Mexican black tar heroin found to the west.

 This divide may have kept deaths down in the West for now, but according to Dr. Ciccarone, there is little evidence of differences in the severity of opioid addiction or heroin use. If drug traffickers begin to shift production and distribution in the West from black tar to powdered heroin in large quantities, fentanyl will most likely come along with it, and deaths will rise.

Drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia and San Francisco
Drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia and San Francisco Drug overdose deaths since 1980 have surged in Philadelphia despite a shrinking population; most heroin there is powdered. They have remained relatively flat in San Francisco, where most heroin is black tar.

First responders are finding that, with fentanyl and carfentanil, the overdoses can be so severe that multiple doses of naloxone — the anti-overdose medication that often goes by the brand name Narcan — are needed to pull people out. In Warren County in Ohio, Doyle Burke, the chief investigator at the county coroner’s office, has been watching the number of drug deaths rise as the effectiveness of Narcan falls. “E.M.S. crews are hitting them with 12, 13, 14 hits of Narcan with no effect,” said Mr. Burke, likening a shot of Narcan to “a squirt gun in a house fire.”

Early data from 2017 suggests that drug overdose deaths will continue to rise this year. It’s the only aspect of American health, said Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the C.D.C., that is getting significantly worse. Over two million Americans are estimated to be dependent on opioids, and an additional 95 million used prescription painkillers in the past year — more than used tobacco. “This epidemic, it’s got no face,” said Chris Eisele, the president of the Warren County Fire Chiefs’ Association and fire chief of Deerfield Township. The Narcotics Anonymous meetings here are populated by lawyers, accountants, young adults and teenagers who described comfortable middle-class upbringings.

 Back in Akron, Mr. Parker has been clean for seven months, though he is still living on the streets. The ground of the park is littered with discarded needles, and many among the homeless here are current or former heroin users. Like most recovering from addiction, Mr. Parker needed several tries to get clean — six, by his count. The severity of opioid withdrawal means users rarely get clean unless they are determined and have treatment readily available. “No one wants their family to find them face down with a needle in their arm,” Mr. Parker said. “But no one stops until they’re ready.”

About the data

Our count of drug overdoses for 2016 is an estimate. A precise number of drug overdose deaths will not be available until December.

As the chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics at the C.D.C., Robert Anderson oversees the collection and codification of the nation’s mortality data. He noted that toxicology results, which are necessary to assign a cause of death, can take three to six months or longer. “It’s frustrating, because we really do want to track this stuff,” he said, describing how timely data on cause of death would let public health workers allocate resources in the right places.

To come up with our count, we contacted state health departments in all 50 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, asking for their statistics on drug overdose deaths among residents. In states that didn’t have numbers available, we turned to county medical examiners and coroners’ offices. In some cases, partial results were extrapolated through the end of the year to get estimates for 2016.

While noting the difficulty of making predictions, Mr. Anderson reviewed The Times’s estimates and said they seemed reasonable. The overdose death rate reported by the N.C.H.S. provisional estimates for the first half of 2016 would imply a total of 59,779 overdose deaths, if the death rate remains flat through the second half of the year. Based on our reporting, we believe this rate increased.

While the process in each state varies slightly, death certificates are usually first filled out by a coroner, medical examiner or attending physician. These death certificates are then collected by state health departments and sent to the N.C.H.S., which assigns what’s called an ICD-10 code to each death. This code specifies the underlying cause of death, and it’s what determines whether a death is classified as a drug overdose.

Sometimes, the cases are straightforward; other times, it’s not so easy. The people in charge of coding each death — called nosologists — have to differentiate between deaths due to drug overdose and those due to the long-term effects of drug abuse, which get a different code. (There were 2,573 such deaths in 2015.) When alcohol and drugs are both present, they must specify which of the two was the underlying cause. If it’s alcohol, it’s not a “drug overdose” under the commonly used definition. Ideally, every medical examiner, coroner and attending physician would fill out death certificates with perfect consistency, but there are often variations from jurisdiction to jurisdiction that can introduce inconsistencies to the data.

These inconsistencies are part of the reason there is a delay in drug death reporting, and among the reasons we can still only estimate the number of drug overdoses in 2016. Since we compiled our data from state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners directly, the deaths have not yet been assigned ICD-10 codes by the N.C.H.S. — that is, the official underlying cause of death has not yet been categorized. In addition, the mortality data in official statistics focuses on deaths among residents. But county coroners typically count up whichever deaths come through their office, regardless of residency. When there were large discrepancies between the 2015 counts from the C.D.C. and the state or county, we used the percent change from 2015 to calculate our 2016 estimate.

We can say with confidence that drug deaths rose a great deal in 2016, but it is hard to say precisely how many died or in which places drug deaths rose most steeply. Because of the delay associated with toxicology reports and inconsistencies in the reported data, our exact estimate — 62,497 total drug overdose deaths — could vary from the true number by several thousand.

 

Full article with citations can be found here:

Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever

Written by: Josh Katz, June 5th 2017