News & Updates – January 27, 2015; Issue 212





Categories: 2015-1-27, News Updates, TOC

Heroin-Linked Deaths Surge 39 Percent, CDC Finds

heroin and injection“Overdose deaths linked to heroin jumped 39 percent in 2013 from the year before, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC said 8,257 people died of heroin-related deaths in 2013, compared with 5,925 deaths in 2012. The number of overdose deaths overall increased to 43,982 from 41,340.

Many more Americans die from prescription opioids. But the rise in fatal heroin overdoses came as users of prescription painkillers switched to the cheaper, illicit street drug. The heroin deaths contributed to an overall 6 percent jump in drug overdose deaths in 2013 from 2012.”

Read more at:

Source: – January 12, 2014

Note: The CDC press release can be accessed at:

Note: See related article No Easing of Opioid Death Toll from available at

Categories: 2015-1-27, Heroin, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction
Tags: Heroin, Injecting Drug Users, Overdose

U.S. Painkiller Abuse 'Epidemic' May Be Declining, Study Says

prescription pills“The U.S. “epidemic” of prescription-painkiller abuse may be starting to reverse course, a new study suggests.

Experts said the findings, published Jan. 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine, are welcome news. The decline suggests that recent laws and prescribing guidelines aimed at preventing painkiller abuse are working to some degree.

“Some people are switching from painkillers to heroin,” said Dr. Adam Bisaga, an addiction psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City.

While the dip in painkiller abuse is good news, more “global efforts” — including better access to addiction treatment — are needed, said Bisaga, who was not involved in the study.

“You can’t get rid of addiction just by decreasing the supply of painkillers,” he said.

Read more at:

Source: – January14, 2015

Note: See related article Overdose Deaths Due to Prescription Painkillers May Peak Soon: Study from the Wall Street Journal available at:

Note: See related article Unintended Consequences: Are We Inadvertently Increasing Heroin Overdose Deaths? from the Fix available at:

Categories: 2015-1-27, Addiction, Heroin, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Prescription Drugs
Tags: Addiction, Heroin, Overdose, Prescription Opioids

The Problem with Treating Pain in America

pain-collageA new federal report reveals holes in how we treat chronic pain

“Chronic pain affects an estimated 100 million Americans, and between 5 to 8 million use opioids for long-term pain management. Data shows the number of prescriptions written for opioids as well opioid overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, highlighting a growing addiction problem in the U.S. In response, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a report on Monday citing major gaps in the way American clinicians are treating pain.

The NIH published its findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine, detailing a lack of research into better treatment methods and poor preparedness among physicians. “The prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a ‘silent epidemic’ of distress, disability, and danger to a large percentage of Americans,” the report authors write. “The overriding question is: Are we, as a nation, approaching management of chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm?”

The answer is no, the report reveals.”

Read more at:

Source: – January 12, 2015

Categories: 2015-1-27, News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Prescription Drugs
Tags: Pain, Prescription Opioids

The Drug Suboxone Could Combat the Heroin Epidemic. So Why Is It So Hard To Get?

This article discusses diversion, insurance reimbursement, cost-related issues, and the patient cap limitations for prescribing physicians for buprenorphine.

Read more at:

Source: – January 13, 2015

Categories: 2015-1-27, Buprenorphine, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction
Tags: Buprenorphine, Heroin, Opioid Treatment Programs, Suboxone

Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Deaths on the Rise Once Again

“The potentially deadly practice of lacing heroin with the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl appears to have made a comeback, with almost 60 individuals dying because of fentanyl overdose in Philadelphia in the first half of 2014 alone.

In 2006, more than 2000 of fentanyl-laced heroin overdose deaths occurred in the United States ― with more than 260 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“This is quite deadly, and users don’t know about it. They often think they’re just using heroin at the usual dose. But in actuality the contaminant in these batches is so potent it leads to fatalities,” lead investigator Vishesh Agarwal, MD, from Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, told Medscape Medical News.

Dr Agarwal added that healthcare workers should immediately treat suspected fentanyl overdoses with higher-than-usual doses of naloxone (multiple brands).

The study was presented at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 25th Annual Meeting.”

Read more at:

Source: – December 31, 2014

Categories: 2015-1-27, Addiction, Heroin, News Updates
Tags: Heroin, Overdose

The Fight for the Overdose Drug

naloxoneThis article details the historical campaign to get Naloxone—the substance that can reverse the effects of an otherwise-lethal heroin overdose—into the hands of the police, families, and addicts.

Read more at:

Source: – December 29, 2014

Categories: 2015-1-27, Heroin, News Updates
Tags: Addiction, Heroin, naloxone, Overdose

A Harm-Reduction Approach to Drug Use Needed by the US

“The United States’ law-and-order approach to reducing the supply of drugs and punishing sellers and users has impeded the development of a public health model that views drug addiction as a disease that is preventable and treatable. A new policy paper from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy advocates that a harm-reduction approach would more effectively reduce the negative individual and societal consequences of drug use.

According to the paper’s author, Katharine Neill, the rate of federal inmates incarcerated for drug offenses hovered at just under 50 percent in 2011, and in 2013 the Obama administration’s budget asked for $25.6 billion to fight the drug war, $15 billion of which was directed toward law enforcement. In addition, by some estimates, state and local governments spend a combined total of $51 billion per year on drug-related law enforcement efforts, which suggests they have a lot to gain by investing in treatment options, Neill said.

“That law enforcement efforts continue to dominate drug policy highlights the need to reframe the discourse on drug use and addiction,” said Neill, the Baker Institute’s Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy. “While emphasizing the cost-saving benefits of treatment is important, this should be coupled with more public conversations focusing on drug addiction as a disease requiring medical treatment, not politically based solutions. Reframing the issue in this way should increase the likelihood that a public health approach to drug policy will be adopted for the long term.”

Read more at:

Source: – January 16, 2015

Note: See related article Will 2015 Be the Year of Harm Reduction? from available at:

Categories: 2015-1-27, Addiction, Drug Courts & Criminal Justice, News Updates, News Updates
Tags: Addiction, Drug Policy, Harm Reduction, Substance abuse treatment

Study: Few Rural Physicians Trained to Provide Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

doctors“Amid rising rates of opioid use disorder and related unintentional lethal opioid overdoses, particularly in rural areas of the United States, researchers examine the distribution of physicians with Drug Enforcement Administration waivers to prescribe buprenorphine-naloxone, an effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Analyzing data for physicians on the DEA’s DATA Waived Physician List as of July 2012, they find only 2.2 percent of American physicians had obtained the waivers required to prescribe buprenorphine. Notably, 90 percent of those physicians were practicing in urban counties, leaving the majority of U.S. counties (53 percent) – most of them rural – with no physician who could dispense buprenorphine.

Although primary care physicians are the predominant providers of health care in rural America, very low percentages of family physicians and general internists (3 percent) had obtained a DEA waiver. Most U.S. counties, therefore, had no physicians who had obtained waivers to prescribe buprenorphine-naloxone, resulting in more than 30 million persons who were living in counties without access to buprenorphine treatment. Psychiatrists represented the largest group of physicians who had obtained waivers (42 percent), and most of them practiced in urban areas. The relative paucity of rural physicians trained to provide office-based treatment of opioid use disorder, the authors conclude, is a major barrier to office-based outpatient treatment for opioid use disorder.

The press release is available at:

Original Source: Geographic and Specialty Distribution of US Physicians Trained to Treat Opioid Use Disorder by C. Holly A. Andrilla, MS, et al University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle. Distributed by Eurekalert – January 12, 2015

Categories: 2015-1-27, Buprenorphine, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), News Updates, Opioid Abuse/Addiction, Uncategorized
Tags: Addiction, Buprenorphine, Heroin, Prescription Opioids, Suboxone, Substance abuse treatment

Research: For Heroin Users, Less May Reduce Immune Cells

Occasional heroin use may be worse for the immune system than continual heroin use, according to a new study.

Many heroin users are infected with H.I.V. Like the virus, the drug suppresses the immune system, so doctors have long assumed that more regular use leads to more rapid immune collapse. Instead, researchers got a surprise when they repeatedly sampled the blood of 77 residents of St. Petersburg, Russia, taken in 2010 as part of a large study of H.I.V.-infected alcoholics.

All appeared to be newly infected, and none were yet on triple-drug therapy. Over the course of the year, those who used heroin only intermittently, meaning they repeatedly went through withdrawal, lost more CD4 blood cells — a measure of immune function — than those who did not use it at all.”

Read more at:

Source: – December 22, 2014

Categories: 2015-1-27, News Updates

States Gear Up to Help Medicaid Enrollees Beat Addictions

medicaidIn addition to increasing the number of people with health insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the first time made coverage of addiction services and other behavioral health disorders mandatory for all insurers, including Medicaid. As a result, the number of Medicaid enrollees receiving addiction services is expected to skyrocket over the next two years

“It’s the biggest change in a generation for addiction services,” said Robert Morrison, executive director of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. “Comprehensive addiction programs didn’t exist in Medicaid until now

In the coming months, states and the federal government will begin releasing data, based on actual Medicaid claims, showing how many newly eligible Medicaid enrollees are using their new health cards, and for what.  So far, there is only anecdotal evidence and limited state data.”

Read more at:

Source: – January 13, 2015

Categories: 2015-1-27, Addiction, Healthcare Reform, News Updates
Tags: Addiction, Medicaid, Substance abuse treatment