President Obama recently attended the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Professionals and concerned citizens used the forum to explore ways to address America’s rising opioid addiction problem.
The President agreed that increased funding is needed to raise access to drug treatment in an effort to simply avoid incarcerating those addicted to heroin and other potentially deadly opioids.
The NBC article referenced here states that over 28,000 people died last year from opioid overdose in the United States. This number has quadrupled since 1999. Many of the overdoses occur from various opioids laced with a powerful prescription pain killer called fentanyl.
Methadone and buprenorphone (the active ingredient in suboxone) are the leading medications used in medication-assisted treatment approaches. Naloxone is another important medication which has been used to reverse opioid overdose. It has saved thousands of lives and is being widely adopted by first responders and police departments across the country due to its proven effectiveness.
President Obama expressed that the U.S. will move toward improved drug treatment access for opioid addicted individuals and that the issue of addiction will be dealt with more as a public health issue as opposed to strictly a criminal act. Included in the proposed legislation is doubling the patient limit such that doctors can treat up to 200 people with buprenorphine (suboxone). The current patient limit is 100.
The Department of Health and Human Services is reported to have committed another $94 million to community health centers to boost their provision of medication-assisted treatment in poor and isolated communities. Many rural areas of the U.S. have very limited availability of opioid addiction services.
Posted in Buprenorphine, Heroin, Heroin Overdose, Methadone, Methadone Clinics, Methadone Maintenance, Opiate Addiction, Opiate Prescription, Opioid Addiction, Prescription Drugs, Suboxone, Suboxone Clinics
PBS’ Frontline series of specials just aired a compelling documentary by the name of Chasing Heroin. The two hour investigation profiles a number of individuals who became addicted to opioids, some of whom chose methadone or suboxone to help them successfully manage their addictive disorder.
The documentary highlights that addiction is best addressed as a medical illness instead of a punishable criminal act. There is widespread consensus today that putting large numbers of people in prison for drug use has not been an effective approach to the problem of drug addiction.
Incarcerating users is very costly and ultimately does not lead to remaining drug free once released from prison. For those suffering with a chronic opioid addiction, medication assisted treatment has become the standard of care proven to be most effective – particularly for those individuals who have tried others forms of treatment that did not work.
The Frontline documentary linked above is very informative, but please be forewarned that it does display vivid scenes of drug use that some viewers may find disturbing. So please exercise appropriate caution before viewing.
Posted in Heroin, Heroin Overdose, Methadone, Methadone Clinics, Methadone Maintenance, Methadone Treatment, NIMBY, Opiate Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Suboxone, Suboxone Physicians
Tagged Frontline, narcan, pbs
NBC News recently reported on the heroin crisis that New Hampshire residents have witnessed. Unprecedented numbers of people from all age groups are struggling with opioid addiction. Many are now deceased with estimates putting the number at nearly 400 who died from a fatal overdose just last year.
New Hampshire is reported to have no state-funded methadone programs to assist those experiencing severe heroin and other opioid addiction. There are several private clinics, but those are currently full with waiting lists for individuals who hope to one day be admitted.
Diane St. Onge, director of the Manchester Comprehensive Treatment Center, is quoted as saying “We need more treatment options. People’s lives are at stake.” Her clinic is presently operating at capacity with 540 patients according to the NBC article. Scores of untreated addicted adults are seeking treatment. When clinics are at capacity, they are forced to place prospective patients on a waiting list.
It is estimated that a significant number of the overdoses are related to heroin and other opiates being mixed with fentanyl and other substances. This makes the potency of the drugs being used almost impossible to predict thus greatly increasing the chance of accidental overdose.
Detox or medication-assisted treatment are the primary modes of intervention for those with opioid addiction. While there has been a substantial increase nationwide in the number of clinics dedicated to treating opioid addiction, there remain numerous areas throughout the country where methadone and suboxone support services are not yet readily available.
Posted in Buprenorphine, Heroin, Heroin Overdose, Methadone, Methadone Clinics, Methadone News, Methadone Treatment, Opiate Addiction, Suboxone
Tagged heroin overdose, NBC News, New Hampshire
It was announced late last month that CVS Drugstores intends to expand their provision of non-prescription naloxone into 12 additional U.S. States. Currently, they provide naloxone over-the-counter in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but will begin offering the life-saving medication in California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Naloxone has gained attention in recent years due to its ability to reverse opioid overdoses. Over 44,000 people have died annually in the United States from drug overdose with a majority of those stemming from heroin or prescription pain medication. Naloxone has been successfully utilized in emergency rooms and on site in communities around the country reversing opioid overdose and saving thousands of lives.
It is critically important to recognize that people who have suffered with addiction are sometimes close to a lasting recovery. There is a popular expression used lately that is somewhat stark though true and thought-provoking. The expression goes “You can’t recover if you’re dead.” While this may sound off-putting to some, it reminds us that people stuck in years of painful addiction can, and do, change. We would much rather have naloxone readily available to save a life and to provide a son, daughter, or friend the opportunity to change direction.
An addicted individual could be much closer to choosing a life of recovery than we might imagine. This happens on a daily basis. How, and when, someone recovers from addiction is hard to predict. All we can do is to offer them an open door to a new and better life.
More Articles on Naloxone
Chuck Rosenberg, the new chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, has expressed serious concerns about the continuing opioid addiction problem in America and the pervasive spread of heroin addiction in particular.
A Fox News article highlighted Mr. Rosenberg’s discussion of how the USA represents only 5% of the world’s population – but consumes 95% of the world’s hydrocodone. His position is that rampant overprescribing of opioids has been occurring for years. As individuals become addicted to prescription medications and are then cut off from further prescription refills, many turn to the illegal purchase of street opiates.
“Street” opiates are sold at a premium – often more than people can afford. This leads to increased crime in order to support the expensive habit or turning to heroin since it is reported to only cost about 20% of hydrocodone on the black market.
The Fox article states that nearly 44,000 per year are dying from drug overdose and that half of those overdoses are from prescription medications. Casualty rates have almost doubled over the last few years.
Also in the news last week was an announcement from Hillary Clinton that if elected President she plans to dedicate billions to opioid treatment. There are other candidates as well, including governor Chris Christie, that have expressed a similar commitment to addressing the opioid addiction epidemic. The groundswell of concern regarding opioid addiction has gained momentum over the past 2 years and is now an audible siren capturing the attention of many governmental leaders. It has become a real health hazard that cannot be ignored any longer.
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