News & Updates – June 24, 2015; Issue 222





Links to Additional National News

Categories: 2015-06-23, News Updates, TOC

Half of Veterans Who Died From Opioid Overdoses Also Received Benzos

veteran“In a recent study, nearly half of all veterans who died from drug overdoses while prescribed opioids for pain were also receiving benzodiazepines, or benzos, which are common medications for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal. Veterans prescribed higher doses of benzodiazepines while concurrently receiving opioids were at greater risk of overdose death than those on lower doses of benzodiazepines. The results of the study by researchers from Rhode Island Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System were published online in the BMJ .

“The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone,” said Tae Woo Park, M.D., attending physician at Rhode Island Hospital. “From a public health perspective, this is deeply troubling, because drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is quite common. In 2010, 75 percent of pharmaceutical-related drug-overdose deaths involved opioids.”

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BMJ via – June 12, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Other Drugs of Abuse, Prescription Drugs
Tags: Addiction, Benzodiazepines, Overdose, Prescription Opioids, Veterans

Physician Waivers to Prescribe Buprenorphine Increases Potential Access to Treatment

Health Affairs Cover“American physicians with waivers allowing them to provide office-based medication-assisted buprenorphine treatment to patients addicted to opioids were able to increase potential access to effective medication-assisted treatment by 74 percent from 2002 to 2011, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The study was published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs.

“In the past, many people living in rural counties have had no practical way to get treatment. They have seen the greatest benefit from the introduction of buprenorphine and the growth in the number of physicians approved to prescribe the drug,” said Dr. Bradley Stein, the study’s senior author, associate professor of psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

Using data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the research team identified counties with shortages of waivered physicians or shortages of opioid treatment programs. By 2011, the percentage of counties with a shortage of waivered physicians fell dramatically from 98.9 percent to 46.8 percent. The change meant the percentage of the U.S. population living in a county with a treatment shortage declined from 49 percent to 10 percent.

The decline in counties with shortages in waivered physicians resulted in an estimated 74 percent increase in the fraction of the U.S. population with potential access to treatment.”

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The article abstract and full article is available for purchase at:

Source: – June 9, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, News Updates, OBOT, Opioid Abuse/Addiction
Tags: Addiction, Buprenorphine, Heroin, Prescription Opioids, Substance abuse treatment

HHS Secretary: 259 Million Opioid Prescriptions in U.S. in 2012 Outnumbered American Adults

“Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told Congress Wednesday that there were more than 250 million prescriptions for opioid drugs in 2012 – more than the number of adults in the U.S Burwell told the House Ways and Means Committee during a hearing about her department’s fiscal year 2016 budget request.

Burwell offered three solutions to the problem of opioid overdose. The first solution, she said, is prescribing. Burwell proposed providing new prescribing guidelines for pain and pain medication and the use of “prescription drug monitoring plans,” which exist in almost all 50 states.

“Number two is the use of naloxone, which is a very important drug that actually stops death when there is overdose and making sure that first responders have access. That is a very important part of that picture,” she said.

“Number three is the issue of Medicaid-assisted treatment combined with behavior issues and making sure that we do treatment for those who are addicted,” Burwell concluded.”

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Source: – June 11, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Addiction, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction
Tags: Addiction, Government, Prescription Opioids, Research

NIDA Science Spotlight: Prescribing Lifesaving Naloxone: Addressing Attitudes of Primary Care Clinicians

home-featured-naloxone“NIDA-funded research exploring barriers to prescribing naloxone, a safe, easy-to-use drug that can prevent opioid overdose deaths, suggests that primary healthcare providers have limited knowledge about it, and have concerns about its misuse and safety. Other perceived barriers to naloxone prescribing included insufficient time during patient appointments, inability to follow up with patients, fear of offending patients, privacy issues, and concerns that patients would be less careful in their opioid use if they possessed a perceived “antidote” to overdose. Participants also had difficulty with the concept of prescribing opioids along with an overdose medication as this seemed to send the message that a patient should not be taking the prescribed opioids.
Because this study included a small sample (56 participants), more research is needed to determine if these knowledge gaps and attitudes are common among healthcare providers. However, these findings provide guidance for the development and testing of strategies to promote appropriate naloxone prescribing practices in primary care settings.

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To view the abstract of the article (published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine), go to: To learn more about naloxone for the prevention of opioid overdose deaths, go to

Source: – June 9, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Addiction, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Uncategorized
Tags: Heroin, naloxone, Overdose, Prescription Opioids

'Friends and Family' OD-Reversal Kits Are Saving Addicts' Lives - Narcan kits have prevented almost 27,000 deaths in two decades, researchers say

“Friends and family members have saved the lives of tens of thousands of narcotic drug users from overdoses by using emergency injection kits containing naloxone (Narcan) — a medication that can potentially reverse the effects of some narcotic drugs, a new federal report says.

Almost 27,000 drug-overdose reversals using Narcan kits were reported to U.S. health officials between 1996 and 2014, according to the report.

“Overdoses are often witnessed by other drug users and family members of drug users,” said lead researcher Eliza Wheeler, DOPE Project Manager at the Harm Reduction Coalition in Oakland, Calif.

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The government report, Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs Providing Naloxone to Laypersons — United States, 2014can be accessed at:

Source: – June 18, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction
Tags: Addiction, Heroin, naloxone, Overdose, Prescription Opioids

The Huffington Post Blog: How Do We Know How Many Lives Have Been Saved With Naloxone?

One of the most common questions that NC Harm Reduction Coalition receives regarding our naloxone distribution program (which has distributed over 10,500 kits from 8/1/13 to 6/10/15, resulting in 586 reported drug overdose reversals) is:

“How do you keep track of how many people have used the kits to reverse a drug overdose?”

Reporting successful overdose reversals is one of the biggest challenges that naloxone distribution programs face. In many cases, an outreach worker will distribute a naloxone kit to a person at risk for opiate drug overdose, and then never see or hear from that person again. Most drug users, already reluctant to admit to activity due to social stigma, will use the kit and never tell anyone unless they have an established, trusting relationship with the person or organization who gave them the kit. So how can you tell if your program is actually working? (And how to you report success to funders)?

The following are a few tips on how to track the number of kits used, as well as some information on the limitations of reporting:”

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Source: – June 10, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Heroin, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Prescription Drugs
Tags: Addiction, Heroin, naloxone, Overdose, Prescription Opioids

On-Label Nasal Naloxone in the Works - Pharmaceutical company/NIDA seeking FDA approval for naloxone nasal spray

“An official formulation of nasal naloxone for reversing opioid overdoses that doesn’t have to be used off-label may be on the market soon.

Lightlake Therapeutics has opened a rolling submission of the NDA for its nasal naloxone to the FDA, according to a release from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is partnering with the company to develop the drug.

Naloxone is technically only available as an injection, made by Hospira, and in auto-injector form known as Evzio by Kaleo Pharma. Amphastar sells the lone nasal formulation — the concentration of the drug is higher than that of injectable naloxone since it’s not administered into or near the blood stream — but it is technically for off-label use.”

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Source: – June 13, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Addiction, News Updates
Tags: Addiction, Heroin, naloxone, Overdose, Prescription Opioids

Senator to VA: End Mindless Narcotics Prescriptions Now

“Since 2007, lawmakers have grappled with the problem, hearing testimony from family members with horror stories of drugged veterans and former troops with multiple prescriptions, taking narcotics or opioids and benzodiazepines with deadly results.

Lawmakers have tried to pass legislation to improve prescribing transparency at VA, increase access to care for substance abuse disorders and provide options at VA for pain management using other than narcotic painkillers. But most attempts have failed.

This week, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will try again.

Smarting from reports that she failed to follow up on problems at the Tomah VA, as well as an investigation published in January by the Center for Investigative Reporting that said the facility was known as “Candy Land” among veterans for its painkiller dispensing habits, Baldwin will introduce legislation to strengthen VA’s oversight of opiate drug prescriptions and pain management programs.

Baldwin’s proposed Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety bill would create a number of safeguards to protect veterans and improve VA medical care. It would require VA and the Defense Department to update clinical practice guidelines for opioid therapy for pain; mandate training for VA doctors who prescribe opioids; and create pain management boards in all VA regions that would oversee compliance of pain management practices at each VA facility.”

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Source: – June 16, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Addiction, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Prescription Drugs
Tags: Addiction, Government, Prescription Opioids, Veterans

Murphy Reintroduces Bill to Dismantle SAMHSA, This Time Gutting 42 CFR Part 2

samhsa“There’s little specific to substance use disorders (SUDs) in the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015,” a bill from 2013 reintroduced June 4 by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) (see ADAW, Dec. 16, 2013). Like its predecessor, the bill seeks to encourage outpatient commitment, which mental health patient advocates oppose, but at the same time funds mental health programs, especially those based in psychiatry and psychology and medications. But there is one item affecting patients with SUDs: a provision that specifically would weaken 42 CFR Part 2, the confidentiality regulation banning the release of information on patients treated for SUDs. The bill wouldn’t change 42 CFR Part 2 itself, but rather make certain information inapplicable to it. And it would be retroactive — people who thought they had been protected by 42 CFR Part 2 would not be protected anymore.

Like its predecessor in 2013, the bill eliminates the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and adds a bureaucracy within the Department of Health and Human Services at the assistant secretary level.

The bill focuses primarily on mental health — except for the provision removing the privacy protections for people in treatment for SUDs, by saying that SUD information doesn’t apply to 42 CFR Part 2 if treatment took place in an integrated health system.”

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Source: Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly – June 15, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, News Updates
Tags: Confidentiality, Government, SAMHSA, Substance abuse treatment

New Article from ASAM: Targeting the Brain Stress System to Treat Addiction

brain NIDA
“The positive effects of substances of abuse are well known. Feeling high, energetic and relaxed is rewarding and easily leads to repeating drug or alcohol intake. But when addiction sets in, there is a loss of control that translates into compulsive drug/alcohol seeking behavior that becomes associated with non-rewarding, or even aversive effects. Recent research has focused on the negative effects of addiction, using animal models to understand the mechanism of negative reinforcement and translating these results into human treatment studies.

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Source: American Society of Addiction Medicine – June 12, 2015

Categories: 2015-06-23, Addiction, News Updates
Tags: Addiction, Addiction is a Brain Disease