Opiate abuse has reached crisis levels, but some states aren’t doing all they can to determine the depth of the problem. Finding up-to-date statistics for specific drugs is often difficult.
By Christine Vestal
The federal government has been issuing warnings about the dangers of methadone for nearly a decade.
Two years ago, states started removing it from their Medicaid “preferred drug lists.” (Joe Amon/Getty Images)
As prescription drug overdose deaths soar nationwide, most states have failed to take a simple step that would make it harder for doctors to prescribe the deadliest of all narcotics.
Methadone is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine, yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe.
It is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine. In addition, experts say it is the most addictive of all opiates.
Yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe the pain medicine to Medicaid patients, no questions asked. Continue reading
Use of prescription narcotic painkillers is common in pregnancy and increases the likelihood a baby will be born small or early, or go through painful drug withdrawal, a new study finds.
These prescription painkillers, also called opioids, include drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin), codeine and morphine.
Nearly 30 percent of the Tennessee mothers-to-be in the new study used at least one of these drugs while pregnant, and the associated risks went up if they also smoked or took antidepressants.
From the US Drug Enforcement Administration
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today issued a nationwide alert about the dangers posed by abuse with the synthetic opioid painkiller fentanyl.
The drug, which is commonly added to heroin, has been associated with a marked increase in overdoses and deaths as abuse of heroin has increased in recent years, the DEA said.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.”
In the last two years, DEA has seen a significant resurgence in fentanyl-related seizures and last year state and local drug-testing labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions, up from 942 in 2013. Continue reading
From Public Health – Seattle & King County
Most King County youth are heeding public health prevention warnings about cigarette smoking and drinking and driving, according to new, preliminary results from the Healthy Youth Survey.
However, e-cigarettes use among youth is increasing.
One in five King County high school seniors reports vaping or e-cigarette use, which is double the number that smokes cigarettes. Continue reading
Advocates fear the higher cost of naloxone, often sold in the U.S. under the brand name Narcan, will ultimately lead to the deaths of addicts who could have been saved if they’d had access to the drug.
More than 8,200 Americans—an average of 23 people each day—died of heroin overdoses in 2013. That’s according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and it’s the latest evidence that the nation’s heroin problem is becoming more severe. The rate of overdose deaths in 2013, the CDC report states, is almost triple what it was in 2010.
By Chrisine Vestal
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of low-income adults last year became eligible for Medicaid and subsidized health insurance for the first time.
Now states face a huge challenge: how to deal with an onslaught of able-bodied, 18- to 64-year olds who haven’t seen a doctor in years.
“It took a lot of time and effort to enroll everyone, particularly those who were new to the system,” said Matt Salo, director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “The next big step, and the biggest unknown, is finding out exactly how this newly insured population will use the health care system.”
In addition to increasing the number of people with health insurance, the Affordable Care Act for the first time made coverage of addiction services mandatory for all insurers, including Medicaid.
The newly insured, most of them young adults, have different needs. Though not as sick as existing Medicaid beneficiaries, the newcomers are more likely than the general population to have undiagnosed and untreated chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
The starkest difference between the new population and the old one, however, is that the new enrollees have much higher rates of drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness.
The number of Medicaid enrollees receiving addiction services is expected to skyrocket over the next two years.
In addition to increasing the number of people with health insurance, the 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.
Although Medicaid and other state and federal programs historically have provided care for people with serious mental illness, coverage of addiction treatments has been spotty. Optional under Medicaid until now, coverage in most states was limited, typically just for pregnant women and adolescents.
“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.” Continue reading
From the US Department of Health and Human Services
Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.
These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.
“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Naloxone kits for treating opioid overdoses are now available at a number of pharmacies in Snohomish County.
These kits are available just by asking the pharmacists, there is no need to see a doctor to obtain a prescription.The cost of the kits is around $125.
Pharmacists will provide education to those being given a Naloxone kit on how to use it and when to use it.
In 2013 there were 86 opioid drug overdoses in Snohomish County, and 580 within Washington State.
The availability of naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) could potentially cut down on deaths due to heroin and prescription opioid drugs (morphine, oxycodone/OxyContin, methadone, hydrocodone/Vicodin, and codeine). Continue reading
Got Drugs? – National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
September 27, 2014
10AM to 2PM
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
Patients who use drugs containing hydrocodone as a pain reliever or cough suppressant are going to have to jump through more hoops to get them starting next month.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is reclassifying so-called “hydrocodone combination products” (HCP) from Schedule III to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act, which will more tightly restrict access. Vicodin, for example, is an HCP because it has hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
The final regulation, which takes effect Oct. 6, will mean that patients generally must present a written prescription to receive the drug, and doctors will no longer be able to call in a prescription to the pharmacy in most instances.
Many patients with painful chronic diseases, including cancer, take hydrocodone combination products
In an emergency, doctors will still be able to call in a prescription, according to the new rule. And although prescription refills are prohibited, a doctor can, at his discretion, issue multiple prescriptions that would provide up to a 90-day supply.
These measures don’t satisfy consumer advocates or pharmacists who are opposed to the new rule. Continue reading
From the Office of Research on Women’s Health
As with many other diseases, the likelihood of becoming addicted differs from person to person, and between males and females.
For substance abuse overall, men are about twice as likely as women to be dependent on most illicit drugs and/or alcohol.
When someone first begins using drugs, addiction does not seem like a dangerous disease, and a person may perceive what seem to be positive effects of drug use. Continue reading
Deaths involving heroin and prescription painkillers continued to rise in King County in 2013, according to a new annual report prepared by the King County Drug Trends Workgroup.
The lead author of the report is Caleb Banta-Green, a scientist and epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.
The report found that deaths involving heroin in King County continue to steadily increase reaching 99 in 2013 up from 49 in 2009 though below the peak of 144 in 1998. Continue reading
Studies show that enrollees with mental illness, who also have chronic physical conditions, account for a large share of Medicaid spending.