Overdose Deaths from Opioids, Heroin on the Rise

News Update 7-18-14“Overdose deaths from both prescription opioids and heroin increased in 2011, the most recent year available, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While prescription opioid deaths followed a more than decade long trend and increased by about 2% from 2010 to 2011, to 16,917; heroin deaths jumped by about 44% in the same span of time to 4,397.

Officials with the CDC said the increase in heroin deaths may be partly due to users having less access to prescription opioids and switching to the illicit drug.

Leonard Paulozzi, a physician and researcher with the CDC, said about 75% of heroin users say they started out by using prescription opioids.

Paulozzi said doctors need to do a better of job of screening for opioid abusers by checking prescription drug monitoring programs in their states for patients who are doctor shopping and using urine screens to detect if they are using illicit drugs.”

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/overdose-deaths-from-opioids-heroin-on-the-rise-b99302962z1-265452991.html

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – July 2, 2014

FDA Designates Opioid Overdose Treatment for Fast Track Development Program

FDA“A Kentucky company headed by a recognized expert in nasal delivery of medication says its intranasal naloxone spray, a drug designed to treat opioid overdoses, has received Fast Track designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Fast Track program of the FDA is designed to expedite the development and review of new drugs that are intended to treat serious or life-threatening conditions and that demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs. Fast Track-designated drugs ordinarily qualify for priority review, thereby expediting the FDA review process. AntiOp and the FDA may also be able to employ additional tools to expedite the FDA review process such as “rolling submission,” whereby AntiOp may submit portions of the new drug application (NDA) in a staged NDA submission process.”

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fda-designates-opioid-overdose-treatment-for-fast-track-development-program-2014-07-15 

Source: MarketWatch.com – July 15, 2014

 

 

Opioid Prevention Programs Could Reduce Deaths from Overdose

hospital sign purchasedshutterstock_33280960“Researchers at the University of Cincinnati  School of Medicine conducted a study that analyzed 19 published studies evaluating the effectiveness of Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs (OOPPs) in terms of recognition, prevention, and risk factors for opioid overdoses. Fourteen of the studies analyzed featured follow-up data on over 9,000 people enrolled in an OOPP, of which half had experienced an overdose and 80% witnessed one.

The research found that eleven of the OOPP studies reported a 100% survival rate when administering naloxone, and the others featured at least an 83% rate. The percentages were determined out of nearly 2,000 naloxone administrations.

However, the researchers believe further studies must be conducted to ensure the strength of knowledge of overdose prevention and risk factors for those who are enrolled in OOPPs. Their findings are promising, but there is limited research and data on OOPPs and that’s really the only way more can be determined about overdose prevention efforts.”

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/15166/20140603/opioid-prevention-programs-reduce-deaths-overdose.htm

The article Development and Implementation of an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program Within a Preexisting Substance Use Disorders Treatment Center which was published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Also see article from Medscape ‘Project Lazarus’ Making Headway on Opioid Overdoses available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826865. Free registration required.

Source: ScienceWorldReport.com – June 3, 2014

Blog by Jana Burson – Naloxone

“Naloxone is the opioid buzz-kill drug… and it’s also the opioid overdose life saver.

People die from opioid overdoses because the brain gets saturated with opioids. The part of the brain that tells us to breathe during sleep, the medulla, also gets saturated, and eventually shuts off. This usually occurs gradually. The respiratory rate slows over one to three hours, until all respirations stop. Then tissues of essential organs like the brain and heart die from lack of oxygen.

If naloxone can be given during this process, the opioids are tossed off brain receptors, and the medulla fires urgent orders for the body to resume breathing. The patient wakes up, so long as irreversible damage hasn’t yet been done to the brain and heart. In some cases, the patient goes into full precipitated opioid withdrawal, but usually the naloxone doesn’t reverse all of the opioids on board, just enough to save the patient’s life.”

http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/naloxone/

Source: Jana Burson – June 15, 2014

Death by Prescription Painkiller – First Major Review Provides Evidence of Sharp Increase in Deaths from Painkillers in US and Canada and Leading Causes

The number of deaths involving commonly prescribed painkillers is higher than the number of deaths by overdose from heroin and cocaine combined, according to researchers at McGill University. In a first-of-its-kind review of existing research, the McGill team has put the spotlight on a major public health problem: the dramatic increase in deaths due to prescribed painkillers, which were involved in more than 16,000 deaths in 2010 in the U.S. alone. Currently, the US and Canada rank #1 and #2 in per capita opioid consumption.

In an effort to identify and summarize available evidence, Nicholas King, of the Biomedical Ethics Unit in the Faculty of Medicine and his team conducted a systematic review of existing literature, comprehensively surveying the scientific literature and including only reports with quantitative evidence.

“We also wanted to find out why thousands of people in the U.S and Canada are dying from prescription painkillers every year, and why these rates have climbed steadily during the past two decades,” says King. “We found evidence for at least 17 different determinants of increasing opioid-related mortality, mainly, dramatically increased prescription and sales of opioids; increased use of strong, long-acting opioids like Oxycontin and methadone; combined use of opioids and other (licit and illicit) drugs and alcohol; and social and demographic factors.”

“We found little evidence that Internet sales of pharmaceuticals and errors by doctors and patients–factors commonly cited in the media — have played a significant role,” Prof. King adds.

The findings point to a complicated “epidemic” in which physicians, users, the health care system, and the social environment all play a role, according to the researchers.

The results of this research are published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Source: McGill University – June 17, 2014

News From the States

Project Lazarus Brings Opioid Treatment Program to Wilkes County Along With Naloxone Kits

kitProject Lazarus, a nonprofit organization based in Moravian Falls, North Carolina, is best known nationally for its work on making the overdose-reversal medication naloxone more available. But the organization, under the guidance of CEO Fred Wells Brason II, was also instrumental in bringing the first opioid treatment program (OTP) to Wilkes County North Carolina. It started as a buprenorphine clinic, which was more palatable to physicians, and then became a full-service OTP including methadone.

The first time Mr. Brason suggested that the county needed an OTP was in 2006, and the response, he recalled, was virulently anti-methadone. “They said, ‘not in our county, and not a drug for a drug.’” But there was no treatment available for people with opioid addiction.

But Mr. Brason, a combination of optimism, determination, and diplomacy, worked out an agreement. First, he got Mountain Health Solutions, an Asheville-based OTP, now owned by CRC Health Group, to set up a satellite clinic in Wilkes County. They would provide only buprenorphine at first—something that was more acceptable by the town. “At least we had something,” he said. Then, he embarked on a two-year education program focusing on methadone. “We talked about addiction, about treatment, and did a lot of myth-busting,” he said. In addition, census in the buprenorphine clinic continued to grow—and Mr. Brason knew that patients needed the comprehensive treatment that is provided in an OTP. “We didn’t want just dispensers, we wanted someone who was an advocate” for the patients, he said.

In addition, buprenorphine is much more expensive than methadone, and since Mountain Health Solutions doesn’t accept Medicaid, it could offer treatment only to people who could afford it, he said. So eventually, what was a buprenorphine clinic became a full-scale OTP in North Wilkesboro.

The doctors in Wilkes County and other counties were among the most vocal opponents of methadone and buprenorphine—at first. In one meeting with them and Jana Burson, MD, from the OTP, one doctor said he didn’t want “those people in the waiting room with Grandma,” Mr. Brason recalled. “I replied, ‘We are meeting right now in a church—and if this were Sunday morning, those people would be here.’” By the time the meeting was over, there was more understanding, at least of buprenorphine, said Mr. Brason, with some of the physicians agreeing to get a waiver so they could provide buprenorphine treatment.

Community Education

Mr. Brason provided education to the community about the importance of medication-assisted treatment during pregnancy, dispelling myths about neonatal abstinence syndrome (facts: NAS is transient and easily treatable, while withdrawing from opioids during pregnancy is harmful to the fetus). “Slowly, after a couple more years, methadone was introduced, and now they are serving more than 400 people a day in our tiny county,” he said. The vast majority are on methadone because they cannot afford buprenorphine.

There are now churches that are financially supporting their members for treatment—paying for the OTP and medications. “The church sees them, that they are going to church, they are going to work, they are supporting their families,” he said.

Mr. Brason is a chaplain, something that gives him credibility in the conservative South—maybe more credibility than a physician or scientist. In addition, he has worked extensively with a hospice in the area. “They know me and who I am,” he said. “That makes a difference.”

It’s still an uphill battle, he said; recently a county commissioner said that methadone clinics are a scam. Brason then sat down with a reporter and got a front page article showing that methadone treatment helps reduce overdose deaths. It was a public relations victory that benefited people who desperately needed help.

“We’ve had a for-profit private detox center all along,” said Mr. Brason. “We were losing people to overdose deaths 24 hours after detox.” That is much better now, because of the presence of the OTP.

Naloxone Kits

Opioid overdose deaths as a problem separate from addiction are also an important focus for Mr. Brason, who was able to introduce naloxone to Wilkes County. Through a grant from Purdue Pharma, the Lazarus Project was able to provide naloxone kits at no charge to the OTP. Originally, when the program started in 2009, this worked by the OTP writing prescriptions for the kits for all new patients—the first weeks on methadone are the riskiest for overdose, not from methadone but from other opioids as the patients are getting used to the doses. Then the patients would go to the pharmacy to pick up their prescription for the $50 kit. However, only 25 percent of the patients were actually getting these prescriptions filled. “They didn’t want to be seen at the pharmacy, they didn’t want the stigma,” he said. So he met with the OTP and agreed on a new system, in which Project Lazarus would pay for half the cost of the kit and the OTP would pay for the other half out of the patient’s enrollment fee. (The grant was over.) The OTP would write the prescription, and then send someone to the pharmacy to pick it up, giving it directly to the patient in the OTP

Spencer Clark, MSW, ACSW, who oversees OTPs for the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, has been very interested in the naloxone kits, said Mr. Brason. “He wondered if they could do this for every OTP in the state.” So far the OTP has documented four lives saved.

Mr. Brason sends naloxone kits to organizations, including first responders like police departments, across the country. The kits include the nasal atomizers, not the actual naloxone, which must be prescribed. Eventually, he hopes that first responders will be able to use the new auto-injector. “It will be great for them, they don’t have to put it together” like the kits, which come in a box. However, because it does involve a needle, some first responders will be more comfortable with the nasal spray, he said.

Rescuing someone from an overdose should mean that person gets access to treatment, said Mr. Brason. First of all, they will—it is hoped—go to the emergency department to get checked out after the rescue. “We approach the link to treatment by tying all the services together. We get our crisis intervention teams to that person within an hour” of the rescue, he said. The crisis counselor interviews the individual to figure out the next steps.

For more information on ordering the kits ($12), go to info@projectlazarus.org. Project Lazarus has covered the shipping charges. For more general information on Project Lazarus, go to http://projectlazarus.org/.

Painkiller Overdose Deaths Have Tripled: Government Report

“Overdose deaths from prescription narcotics tripled from 2009-2010, compared with a decade earlier, according to a new government report. Almost half of Americans are taking one or more prescription medications, the report found. An estimated 10.5 percent are prescribed painkillers.

The report found a large jump in the percentage of Americans taking prescription medication, according to HealthDay. From 2007 to 2010, about 48 percent of people said they were taking a prescription drug, up from 39 percent from 1988 to 1994.

About 90 percent of adults ages 64 and older took prescription medication in the past month, while 25 percent of children did so. About 10 percent of Americans said they had taken five or more prescription drugs in the previous month.”

http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/prescription-drugs/painkiller-overdose-deaths-have-tripled-government-report

Source: JoinTogether.org – May 15, 2014

National Institutes of Health Press Release: HHS Leaders Call For Expanded Use of Medications to Combat Opioid Overdose Epidemic

New England Journal of Medicine commentary describes that vital medications are currently underutilized in addiction treatment services and discusses ongoing efforts by major public health agencies to encourage their use

A national response to the epidemic of prescription opioid overdose deaths was outlined in the New England Journal of Medicine by leaders of agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The commentary calls upon health care providers to expand their use of medications to treat opioid addiction and reduce overdose deaths, and describes a number of misperceptions that have limited access to these potentially life-saving medications. The commentary also discusses how medications can be used in combination with behavior therapies to help drug users recover and remain drug-free, and use of data-driven tracking to monitor program progress.

The commentary was authored by leaders of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) within the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“When prescribed and monitored properly, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone are safe and cost-effective components of opioid addiction treatment,” said lead author and NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “These medications can improve lives and reduce the risk of overdose, yet medication-assisted therapies are markedly underutilized.”

Research has led to several medications that can be used to help treat opioid addiction, including methadone, usually administered in clinics; buprenorphine, which can be given by qualifying doctors; and naltrexone, now available in a once-a-month injectable, long-acting form. The authors stress the value of these medications and describe reasons why treatment services have been slow to utilize them. The reasons include inadequate provider education and misunderstandings about addiction medications by the public, health care providers, insurers, and patients. For example, one common, long-held misperception is that medication-assisted therapies merely replace one addiction for another – an attitude that is not backed by the science. The authors also discuss the importance of naloxone, a potentially life-saving medication that blocks the effects of opioids as a person first shows symptoms of an overdose.

The article describes how HHS agencies are collaborating with public and private stakeholders to expand access to and improve utilization of medication-assisted therapies, in tandem with other targeted approaches to reducing opioid overdoses.  For example, NIDA is funding research to improve access to medication-assisted therapies, develop new medications for opioid addiction, and expand access to naloxone by exploring more user-friendly delivery systems (for example, nasal sprays). CDC is working with states to implement comprehensive strategies for overdose prevention that include medication-assisted therapies, as well as enhanced surveillance of prescriptions and clinical practices. CDC is also establishing statewide norms to provide better tools for the medical community in making prescription decisions.

Charged with providing access to treatment programs, SAMHSA is encouraging medication-assisted therapy through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant as well as regulatory oversight of medications used to treat opioid addiction. SAMHSA has also developed an Opioid Overdose Toolkit  to educate first responders in the use of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths. The toolkit includes easy-to-understand information about recognizing and responding appropriately to overdose, specific drug-use behaviors to avoid, and the role of naloxone in preventing fatal overdose.

“SAMHSA’s Opioid Overdose Toolkit is the first federal resource to provide safety and prevention information for those at risk for overdose and for their loved ones,” said co-author and SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “It also gives local governments the information they need to develop policies and practices to help prevent and respond appropriately to opioid-related overdose.”

CMS is working to enhance access to medication-assisted therapies through a more comprehensive benefit design, as well as a more robust application of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

“Appropriate access to medication-assisted therapies under Medicaid is a key piece of the strategy to address the rising rate of death from overdoses of prescription opioids,” said co-author Stephen Cha, M.D., M.H.S., chief medical officer for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] Services at CMS. “CMS is collaborating closely with partners across the country, inside and outside government, to improve care to address this widespread problem.”

However, the authors point out that success of these strategies requires engagement and participation of the medical community.

The growing availability of prescription opioids has increased risks for people undergoing treatment for pain and created an environment and marketplace of diversion, where people who are not seeking these medications for medical reasons abuse and sell the drugs because they can produce a high.

The press release can be accessed at: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/apr2014/nida-24.htm

The New England Journal of Medicine article can be accessed at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1402780?query=featured_home

Source: National Institutes of Health – April 24, 2014

Dr. Jana Burson Blog: Drug Interactions with Methadone

“Recently, medical directors of opioid treatment programs in my state pondered how to handle the risk of medication interactions with methadone. In my area of the country, chart reviews of patients who died while taking methadone revealed many decedents were taking other medications with known interactions with methadone. Obviously, we want to prevent these deaths, and need to protect against drug interactions.

To predict a possible drug interaction, the OTP doctor must know all of the other medications that the patient is taking, both prescription and non-prescription. I assume all doctors at opioid treatment programs ask the patients what medications they are prescribed on the first day, along with what they take over the counter. That’s a good start, but often it’s not sufficient.”

http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/drug-interactions-with-methadone/

Source: Dr. Jana Burson – March 25, 2014

Naloxone ‘Stigma’ a Barrier to Prescribing?

“Although giving out naloxone to patients at high risk of overdose sounds like a good idea, researchers who work with the drug say the stigma surrounding its use may be a barrier to wider uptake among both patients and doctors.

Patients may feel they’re being treated like addicts and that their opioid prescriptions will be tempered, while doctors worry that just talking about naloxone may scare patients away, said Caleb Banta-Green, PhD, MPH, of the University of Washington in Seattle. “Both doctors and patients feel like they’re under the microscope,” Banta-Green told MedPage Today. “It’s a very sensitive time.”

Banta-Green and his colleagues are enrolling patients at high risk for opioid overdose — both heroin users and patients on prescription opioids — in a randomized trial to test whether providing naloxone, along with education and counseling, can reduce overdose.”

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/Addictions/45164

Source: MedPageToday.com – April 9, 2014

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg Statement on Prescription Opioid Abuse

FDA“For more than a decade, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working to address the important public health problems associated with the misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose of opioid analgesics, while at the same time working to ensure continued access to effective and appropriate medications for millions of Americans currently suffering from pain. I firmly believe that these goals are compatible, and that actions to address one should not be at the expense of the other.

Tragically, the most recent data shows that more than 16,000 lives are lost each year due to opioid-related overdoses. In fact, drug overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdose deaths, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States – surpassing motor vehicle crashes. We know that the illegal diversion, misuse, and abuse of prescription opioids are often fueled by inappropriate prescribing, improper disposal of unused medications, and the illegal activity of a small number of health care providers. This highlights the important role that education of prescribers and patients can play in addressing this epidemic. The FDA has taken steps to address this but more work remains to be done.

Combatting the serious public health problem of misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose from opioid analgesics is a high priority. Since 2001 the FDA has taken a number of actions designed to help address prescription opioid abuse and to encourage the development of new drug treatments for pain. These actions include:

  • Revising the labeling for opioid medications to foster their safe and appropriate use, including recent changes to the indications and safety warnings of extended-release and long-acting opioids.
  • Requiring that manufacturers conduct studies of the safety of long-term use of prescription opioids.
  • Improving appropriate prescribing by physicians and use by patients through educational materials required as a part of a risk mitigation strategy for extended-release and long-acting opioids.
  • Using the agency’s expedited review programs to advance development of new non-opioid medications to treat pain with the goal of bringing new non- or less-abusable products to market.
  • Working with other federal agencies and scientists to advance our understanding of the mechanisms for pain and how to treat it, including the search for new non-opioid medications for pain.
  • Recommending that hydrocodone-containing combination products have additional restrictions on their use by rescheduling them from Schedule III to Schedule II.
  • Strengthening surveillance efforts to actively monitor the changing nature of prescription opioid abuse and to identify emerging issues.
  • And, importantly, encouraging the development of medications to treat opioid abuse, such as buprenorphine for use in medication-assisted treatment, and to reverse opioid overdoses, such as naloxone.

Today’s FDA approval of Evzio (naloxone autoinjector) provides an important new tool in our arsenal to more effectively combat the devastating effects of opioid overdose, which is one part of our comprehensive work to support opioid safety. Reflecting the FDA’s commitment to encouraging important new therapies, the FDA’s review of Evzio was granted priority status, and the application was reviewed by the FDA in just 15 weeks.

This product is the first auto-injector designed to rapidly reverse the overdose of either prescription or illicit opioids. While the larger goal is to reduce the need for products like these by preventing opioid addiction and abuse, they are extremely important innovations that will help to save lives.

The FDA will continue to work to reduce the risks of abuse and misuse of prescription opioids, but we cannot solve this complex problem alone. A comprehensive and coordinated approach is needed; one that includes the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Enforcement Administration and many of our sister agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state and local governments, public health experts, health care professionals, addiction experts, researchers, industry, and patient organizations.

I am confident that this can be accomplished, but we will all need to work together to invest in strategies and responsible approaches that deter or mitigate the effects of abuse while preserving access to pain medicines for the patients that need them the most.”

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm391590.htm

See related press release on EVZIO available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm391465.htm

Source: Federal Drug Administration – April 3, 2014

U.S. Attorney General Holder Urges Use of Drug to Help In Heroin ODs

Attorney General Eric Holder declaring heroin addiction is an “urgent and growing public health crisis,” urged first responders to carry the drug naloxone that helps resuscitate victims from an overdose.

“Addiction to heroin and other opiates — including certain prescription pain-killers — is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life — and all too often, with deadly results,” Holder said in a video message posted Monday on the Justice Department website.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/10/holder-heroin-overdose-help/6247281/

Source: USAToday.com – March 10, 2014

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Updated Research Report on Heroin

Wider Use of Antidote Could Lower Overdose Deaths by Nearly 50%

“Distributing naloxone and training people to use it can cut the death rates from overdose nearly in half, according to a new study.

The new study, published in the BMJ, followed the expansion of Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) programs in Massachusetts.  The programs were offered at emergency rooms, primary care centers, rehabilitation centers, support groups for families of addicted people and other places that might attract those at risk.

The study involved 2912 people in 19 different Massachusetts communities — each of which had had at least 5 opioid overdose deaths between 2004 and 2006.  The participants were trained to recognize overdose, call 911 and administer naloxone using a nasal inhaler.  If the naloxone didn’t work, they were instructed to try another dose and perform rescue breathing until help arrived.

During that time, 153 naloxone-based rescues were reported for which there was data on outcomes, and in 98% of those cases, the drug revived the victim.

There are still practical barriers however, to widely distributing naloxone and implementing more OEND type programs. Advocates have argued that the medication should be made available over-the-counter since it has little potential for abuse and is nontoxic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and even the drug czar’s office support making it more widely available, and unlike the case with needle exchange programs, there has been no organized opposition to OEND. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no precedent for allowing over-the-counter sales of such a drug: naloxone is a generic medication approved in an injectable form. Without a company to submit an application for its use in the intranasal version, the agency isn’t likely to OK over-the-counter sales.”

http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/05/wider-use-of-antidote-could-lower-overdose-deaths-from-by-nearly-50/

Source: HealthlandTime.com – February 5, 2014

Dr. Westley Clark on Overdose – Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse Can Start With Education about the Risk of Overdose Death

ClarkOn January 16, the ATTC Network hosted a free webinar, “SAMHSA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit & Prescription Drug Abuse,” led by the Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA, Dr. H. Westley Clark.

In addition to an overview of the toolkit itself, Clark’s presentation included epidemiological details about the current overdose epidemic, federal-level efforts to address overdose, and the importance of access to evidence-based treatment (including medications).

The recorded webinar is available online for on-demand viewing.  You can also download the slides for an overview of the talk.

Here are two salient points:

  • The exchange of prescription pain relievers is happening at a person-to-person level.
  • Prevention of prescription drug abuse can start with education about the risk of overdose death. 

The risk of death from an overdose, said Clark, is a good jumping off place for a larger conversation about substance use.  Not only is pill-popping not harmless, it can actually kill you or someone you love. “We can use overdose as a starting point to get people to be aware of some of the consequences of the misuse of prescription opioids or heroin, for that matter,” he said. “We’ve got friends and relatives who are handing people very powerful drugs with the assumption that if they can take it, then anybody can take it.  And that is not the case.”

Emphasizing the long-term consequences of a behavior–like the possibility of becoming addicted as a result of recreational painkiller use–doesn’t always get through to people.  But the possibility of dying from a drug overdose today or tomorrow?  No kindly neighbor wants to bear responsibility for that.

The Institute for Research, Education & Training in Addictions (IRETA) blog also provides a list of currently available and forthcoming resources to help individuals and communities prevent prescription drug abuse and overdose.

http://iretablog.org/author/iretablog/

Source:  Institute for Research, Education & Training in Addictions – January 27, 2014

AMA Calls on CDC to Help Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

pills 12-20-12“At the American Medical Association (AMA), physicians voted to support a proposal for a more practical approach in preventing death from prescription pain medications.

Specifically, the proposal calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help provide required information in order to develop appropriate solutions.  The AMA will urge the CDC to promote a standard approach for “documenting and assessing deaths involving controlled substances for pain relief,” stated Patrice Harris, MD, an AMA Board Member.

According to the AMA, the CDC is in a key position to promote a standard approach that can help identify key trends and guide effective preventive measures. A standardized method of data collection and analysis has helped public health officials, law enforcement, and policy makers address other national epidemics.”

Source: American Medical Association – November 19, 2013

National Safety Council Report: Only Three States Adequately Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse

NSCThe National Safety Council (NSC) released its report, Prescription Nation: Addressing America’s prescription drug abuse epidemic showing 47 states must improve existing standards if they are to reduce the number of deaths involving prescription drug overdoses. NSC is calling on states to take immediate action to improve the prescribing, monitoring, treatment and availability of opioid pain relievers.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health epidemic. Forty-five people die every day from overdoses of prescription pain relievers, accounting for more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. Enough pain killers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around the clock for one month.

“For the first time since WWII, something other than motor vehicle crashes is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for Americans ages 25-64,” said John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives at NSC. “Countless lives already have been lost. NSC will be working to confront this issue on a national level.”

In the report, NSC examined state efforts in four areas: state leadership and action, prescription drug monitoring programs, responsible painkiller prescribing and overdose education and prevention programs.

Kentucky, Vermont and Washington were the only states that met standards in all four areas.

Fourteen states - Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming – failed to meet standards.

Visit nsc.org/rxreport to receive the full report and learn more about solutions to this growing epidemic. Note: Registration is required to access the report. NSC also developed an infographic illustrating the scope of the problem. The infographic can be downloaded at nsc.org/rxnation.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nsc-report-only-three-states-adequately-addressing-prescription-drug-abuse-227719161.html

Source: PRNewsWire.com – October 14, 2013

Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic

pillsA new report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, finds that 28 states and Washington, D.C. scored six or less out of 10 possible indicators of promising strategies to help curb prescription drug abuse. Two states, New Mexico and Vermont, received the highest score receiving all 10 possible indicators, while South Dakota scored the lowest with two out of 10.

According to the report by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), prescription drug abuse has quickly become a top public health concern, as the number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – doubled in 29 states since 1999. The rates quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more of these states.

Prescription drug related deaths now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined, and drug overdose deaths exceed motor vehicle-related deaths in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers alone costs the country an estimated $53.4 billion each year in lost productivity, medical costs and criminal justice costs. Currently only one in 10 Americans with a substance abuse disorder receives treatment.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Appalachia and Southwest Have the Highest Overdose Death Rates: West Virginia had the highest number of drug overdose deaths, at 28.9 per every 100,000 people – a 605 percent increase from 1999, when the rate was only 4.1 per every 100,000. North Dakota had the lowest rate at 3.4 per every 100,000 people. Rates are lowest in the Midwestern states
  • Rescue Drug Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have a law in place to expand access to, and use of naloxone – a prescription drug that can be effective in counteracting an overdose – by lay administrators.
  • Good Samaritan Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have laws in place to provide a degree of immunity from criminal charges or mitigation of sentencing for individuals seeking to help themselves or others experiencing an overdose.
  • Medical Provider Education Laws: Fewer than half of states (22) have laws that require or recommend education for doctors and other healthcare providers who prescribe prescription pain medication.
  • Support for Substance Abuse Treatment: Nearly half of states (24 and Washington, D.C.) are participating in Medicaid Expansion – which helps expand coverage of substance abuse services and treatment.
  • ID Requirement: 32 states have a law requiring or permitting a pharmacist to require an ID prior to dispensing a controlled substance.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: While nearly every state (49) has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to help identify “doctor shoppers,” problem prescribers and individuals in need of treatment, these programs vary dramatically in funding, use and capabilities. For instance, only 16 states require medical providers to use PMDPs.

The report can be accessed at: http://healthyamericans.org/reports/drugabuse2013/

The press release can be accessed at: http://healthyamericans.org/newsroom/releases/?releaseid=291

Source: HealthyAmericans.org – October 7, 2013

Role of Police in Responding to Overdoses Often Unclear: Study

hospital sign“The role of police officers in responding to overdoses is often unclear, according to a new study. Researchers say training officers in administering the overdose antidote naloxone could have a significant impact on the death rate from drug-related fatalities.

The study found that while police officers often serve as medical first responders, it is often unclear what police can or should do at the scene of an overdose, PsychCentral.com reports.

The researchers interviewed 13 law enforcement officials in Connecticut and Rhode Island communities experiencing high rates of drug overdoses. They found officials were supportive of being involved in overdose prevention, but they expressed hesitancy about laypersons administering naloxone. Officers said they were frustrated with their current overdose response options, the lack of accessible drug treatment, the cycle of addiction and the pervasiveness of easily accessible prescription opioid medications in their communities.”

http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/community-related/role-of-police-in-responding-to-overdoses-often-unclear-

Source: JoinTogether.org – September 30, 2013

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