Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Most Americans say they have a personal tie to prescription drug abuse



By Lisa Gillespie

The growing abuse of prescription painkillers now touches home for a majority of Americans, according to a poll released Tuesday.

One in three say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.

More than 56 percent of the public say they have a personal connection to the issue, reports the latest monthly tracking poll of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That share includes those who say they know someone who died from a painkiller overdose, have been addicted themselves or know someone who has and those who know someone who took painkillers not prescribed to them, the poll’s results show. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Details from the poll:

— 16 percent say they know someone who has died and 9 percent say that person was a close friend or family member.

— 27 percent say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.

— 63 percent of whites say they have a personal connection to the abuse of prescription painkillers compared with 44 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Hispanics.

Half of those surveyed rank prescription painkiller and heroin abuse as a top priority for their governor and legislature, behind improving public education and making health care more accessible and affordable, which drew 76 percent and 68 percent shares, respectively.

Sixty-two percent of those polled said the drug Naloxone, which can reverse an overdose and is handed out in some states without a prescription and for little or no cost, should only be available via prescription.

Efforts to reduce painkiller abuse would be at least somewhat effective, many Americans say. Providing treatment for addicts is cited by 85 percent, monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits by 82 percent and encouraging people to dispose of leftover medication by 69 percent.

Kaiser’s tracking poll was conducted Nov. 10 to 17 among 1,352 adults.The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3 percentage points.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


10 percent of US adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives


75 percent report not receiving any form of treatment.

From the National Institutes of Health

Three red and white capsulesA survey of American adults revealed that drug use disorder is common, co-occurs with a range of mental health disorders and often goes untreated.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that about 4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives.

“Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., NIAAA director. “Given these numbers, and other recent findings about the prevalence and under-treatment of alcohol use disorder in the U.S., it is vitally important that we continue our efforts to understand the underlying causes of drug and alcohol addiction, their relationship to other psychiatric conditions and the most effective forms of treatment.”

“Based on these findings, more than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use.” —George F. Koob, Ph.D.

NIAAA directorA diagnosis of drug use disorder is based on a list of symptoms including craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities. Continue reading


Opioid epidemic continues in Washington


Tablet Thumb BlueFrom the Washington State Department of Health

New Washington health data shows a significant drop in deaths from prescription narcotics in recent years.

Tragically, the decline is offset by a doubling of the number of heroin deaths in our state during the same time.

Both heroin and prescription narcotics are types of drugs known as opioids.

Progress in preventing deaths from prescription narcotics compromised by rising heroin fatalities

Data from 2014 state vital statistics records show the number of deaths from prescription narcotics has steadily dropped from a peak of 512 deaths in 2008 to 319 in 2014.

At the same time, heroin killed 293 people in Washington last year, about twice as many as in 2008. Overall, the number of deaths from opioid overdose in Washington remains at about 600 a year. Continue reading


HUD Proposes Nationwide Smoking Ban In Public Housing


Cigarette thumbPublic housing residents would be banned from smoking, not just in public spaces on the premises, but in their own apartments under a proposal Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal, which is drawing criticism from many residents and being praised by others concerned about second-hand smoke.


Should the smoking age be 21? Some legislators say yes


Cigarette thumbBy Jenni Bergal

Nearly a dozen states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

While a growing number of states have turned their attention to marijuana legalization, another proposal has been quietly catching fire among some legislators—raising the legal age to buy cigarettes.

Measures to raise the smoking age to 21 were introduced this year in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, the District of Columbia and here in Washington state.

This summer, Hawaii became the first state to approve increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21 starting Jan 1. A similar measure passed the California Senate, but stalled in the Assembly. And nearly a dozen other states have considered bills this year to boost the legal age for buying tobacco products.

“It really is about good public health,” said Democratic Hawaii state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who sponsored the legislation. “If you can keep individuals from beginning to smoke until they’re at least 21, then you have a much greater chance of them never becoming lifelong smokers.”

Supporters say hiking the legal age to 21 not only will save lives but will cut medical costs for states. But opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military. Continue reading


How heroin is hitting the foster care system


320px-HeroinBy Sophie Quinton

Timothy Dick’s office receives all kinds of reports of child abuse and neglect. Perhaps a child has a broken bone, or is underfed, or has been left home alone for too long.

But when caseworkers drive to the child’s home to investigate, they often discover the same root cause. “What we’re finding more and more is that the parents are addicted to opiates. And more often than not, it’s heroin,” said Dick, assistant director of child protective services in Clermont County, Ohio.

In Ohio and other states ravaged by the latest drug epidemic, officials say substance abuse by parents is a major reason for the growing number of children in foster care. In Clermont County, east of Cincinnati, more than half the children placed in foster care this year have parents who are addicted to opiates, Dick said. Continue reading


Pesticides and Pot: What marijuana users should know


Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Jeff Duchin, MD
Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County

The passage of I-502 in 2012 means that marijuana is now a legal crop in Washington State. Growers of most of the fruit and vegetables we eat routinely use pesticides and other chemicals to reduce or eliminate crop destruction.

Because marijuana is considered illegal by the federal government, the crop stands outside the federal pesticide evaluation and oversight system.

In Colorado and elsewhere, pesticides that were not approved for use on marijuana have been reported in product from recreational stores.

Could this happen in Washington?The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has tried to address this gap by providing growers with  a list of pesticides that may be used by marijuana growers, along with an explanation of the criteria used to select the pesticides.

These pesticides were selected because their use on marijuana plants would not be in direct conflict with federal law (they are allowed on other food products) and they are considered to pose minimal risk to health when used as directed.

Marijuana retailers are required to document all pesticides used on marijuana products that they sell and provide customers and regulators the information on pesticides used upon request.

The potential for pesticides to be present in marijuana is not new and was a concern before the legalization and regulation of medicinal and recreational marijuana products. Pesticides can pose a risk not only to marijuana users but also to workers who use the products and to the environment.

We don’t know that the problem is worse at this time than before regulation, and given the fact that there are now requirements for growers regarding acceptable pesticide use in  marijuana sold by regulated stores (and soon to include “medicinal marijuana” sold at regulated stores) the risk may be lower at this time than in the past. Continue reading


Q&A: Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on attacking the drug epidemic


VermontBy Elaine S. Povich

In January 2014, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to the opiate drug scourge ravaging his state. While Vermont is not the only state to experience the growing addiction problem, it arguably has been the most aggressive in tackling one aspect of it — offering treatment to residents who agree to participate.

Gov. Shumlin

Gov. Shumlin

Within six months of his speech, Shumlin, a Democrat, signed bills and executive orders that included $6.7 million for a “hub and spoke” treatment program of central facilities and small treatment outposts, a medication-assisted addiction therapy program, tougher sentences for drug traffickers and new regulations for prescribing and monitoring prescription drugs. One of biggest changes is giving people who are picked up by police the choice of treatment instead of criminal prosecution.

In January 2015, the state reported that medically assisted drug treatment had increased by 40 percent. Of those who completed treatment plans, 75 percent showed improved functioning. But the report also said more treatment opportunities are needed, citing the difficulty in hiring and retaining clinicians and other health care providers as a major obstacle.

A year and a half after his groundbreaking speech, Stateline checked in with Shumlin to talk about his progress and what remains to be done. Continue reading


States where pot is legal struggle with ‘drugged driving’


Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Sarah Breitenbach

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Crandall half-jokingly says he can tell a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop when the motorist becomes overly familiar and is calling him “dude.”

The truth in the joke, Crandall says, is that attitude and speech patterns can be effective markers for drugged driving. Continue reading


When rehab might help an addict, but insurance won’t cover it – WITF-Fm


Federal law requires insurance firms to cover treatment for addiction as they do treatment for other diseases. But some families say many drug users aren’t getting the inpatient care they need.

Cris and Valerie Fiore hold one of their favorite pictures of their sons Anthony (with the dark hair) and Nick. Anthony died from a heroin overdose in May 2014 at the age of 24. Cris Fiore’s eulogy described his son’s death as a shock, but “not a surprise.” Anthony had been addicted to heroin for years.