Sad Story Illustrates the Opioid Overdose Epidemic in the USA

This sad story illustrates the cost of the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic in the USA.

A 7-year-old told her bus driver she couldn’t wake her parents. Police found them dead at home.

For more than a day, the 7-year-old girl had been trying to wake her parents.

Dutifully, she got dressed in their apartment outside Pittsburgh on Monday morning and went to school, keeping her worries to herself. But on the bus ride home, McKeesport, Pa., police say, she told the driver she’d been unable to rouse the adults in her house.

Inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25, dead of suspected drug overdoses, according to police.

Also inside the home were three other children — 5, 3 and nine months old.

Speaking before the state legislature last week in Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) told lawmakers that the opioid epidemic facing Pennsylvania is “a public health crisis, the likes of which we have not before seen. Every day, we lose 10 Pennsylvanians to the disease of addiction.

Nationwide, opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription drug, the CDC said, adding that the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled nationwide since 1999.

The couple’s 7-year-old daughter asked the officer to sign her homework so she could turn it in at school the next day.

“That broke my heart,” Burton said. “She said, ‘I did my work.’ She pulled it out and showed it to us. It was math homework, (like) ‘Which number is greater? Which number is odd or even?’ … I told her, ‘Sweetie, you probably won’t have to go to school tomorrow. … But where you’re going is going to have everything you need.'”

The human cost of the ongoing epidemic of abuse of prescription and illegal opioids is hard to fathom. Addressing these challenges is not easy but stories like this should remind us how important it is for us to take on the task.

Related: President Obama Proposes $1.1 Billion in New Funding to Address the Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Use Epidemic (Feb 2016)Heroin Use Spikes Among Those Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers (2015)Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused Policy

President Obama Proposes $1.1 Billion in New Funding to Address the Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Use Epidemic

President Obama’s Budget includes new mandatory funding to help ensure that all Americans who want treatment can get the help they need. I have posted the whole press release because if I link to it, the link will break with the next president (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/02/president-obama-proposes-11-billion-new-funding-address-prescription).

Prescription drug abuse and heroin use have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many Americans and their families, while straining resources of law enforcement and treatment programs. More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that opioids—a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin—were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014. In particular, CDC found a continued sharp increase in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

The President has made clear that addressing the opioid overdose epidemic is a priority for his Administration and has highlighted tools that are effective in reducing drug use and overdose, like evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, prescription drug take-back events, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Under the Affordable Care Act, substance use disorder services are essential health benefits that are required to be covered by health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The law also required that covered substance use disorder benefits are comparable to medical and surgical benefits.

The President’s FY 2017 Budget takes a two-pronged approach to address this epidemic. First, it includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. This funding will boost efforts to help individuals with an opioid use disorder seek treatment, successfully complete treatment, and sustain recovery. This funding includes:

  • $920 million to support cooperative agreements with States to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States will receive funds based on the severity of the epidemic and on the strength of their strategy to respond to it. States can use these funds to expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable.
  • $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. This funding will help support approximately 700 providers able to provide substance use disorder treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment, in areas across the country most in need of behavioral health providers.
  • $30 million to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions and help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders.

This investment, combined with other efforts underway to reduce barriers to treatment for substance use disorders, will help ensure that every American who wants treatment can access it and get the help they need.

Second, the President’s Budget includes approximately $500 million — an increase of more than $90 million — to continue and build on current efforts across the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities. A portion of this funding is directed specifically to rural areas, where rates of overdose and opioid use are particularly high. To help further expand access to treatment, the Budget includes an HHS pilot project for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, where allowed by state law.

Building on Actions to Address the Opioid Epidemic

In October 2015, the President announced a number of new public and private sector actions to address this issue, including a Presidential Memorandum on prescriber training and opioid use disorder treatment. He also announced a commitment by more than 40 provider groups that more than 540,000 health care providers will complete training on appropriate opioid prescribing in the next two years. After just over three months, these groups reported that more than 66,000 providers have completed prescriber training to date, putting them on target to meet their goal.

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Heroin Use Spikes Among Those Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at the frequency of nonmedical prescription opioid use and the risk of heroin-related behaviors and found that past-year heroin use rose among individuals taking opioids like oxycontin, and these increases varied by race and ethnicity. The most significant rise in heroin use was among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, where the rate of heroin use for the latter group increased by 75% in 2008-2011 compared to earlier years.

Findings are published in a sad closed-science way even though funding was provided by National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health (grants K01DA030449, R03DA037770, and R01DA037866) the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (grant HD020667) and Columbia University. I suggest you contact those organizations or Columbia if you want to see what the findings are. They need to learn blocking access to scientific research is wrong and they shouldn’t fund such activity.

Nonmedical prescription opioid use is defined as using a substance that is not prescribed or taking a drug only for the experience or the feeling it caused.

Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a large nationally representative household sample of 67,500 people, and self-reported heroin use within the last 12 months, the researchers examined the change in patterns of past-year non-prescription drug and heroin use between 2002-2005 and 2008-2011 across racial and ethnic groups. The study also looked at the association between past year frequency of both, heroin-related risk behaviors, and exposure to heroin availability.

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The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of Heroin

We lost a great actor with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Once again the danger of drug use has resulted in the loss of life. He sought treatment for his addiction but failed to avoid an untimely death.

photo of Philip Seymour Hoffman by Jean Jacques Georges

Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Paris premiere of The Ides of March in 2011 by photo by Jean Jacques Georges

Hoffman death puts focus on heroin’s comeback

Hoffman, 46, was found on the bathroom floor of his New York City apartment with a syringe in his left arm and glassine bags usually associated with heroin. Police say they are investigating substances found in the apartment to determine which drugs were present, but Hoffman has been open about his drug use, which included prescription pills and heroin, and his decades-long struggle to stay sober.

As authorities crack down on clinics that prescribe pain pills by the thousands and pharmaceutical companies change their formulas so the pills are more difficult to abuse, opiate addicts are turning to cheaper and more-plentiful heroin.

In recent years, the number of people abusing prescription pain pills has dropped steadily as heroin use increased. The number of people 12 and older who regularly abuse OxyContin dropped from 566,000 in 2010 to 358,000 in 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in December. The number of regular heroin users soared from 239,000 in 2010 to 335,000 in 2012, the survey found.

The tragedy caused by the abuse of drugs damages millions every day. We have to do a better job of reducing the damage done to society due to the abuse of drugs. Celebrities shine a light on the problem but it is a widespread problem that has an immense impact throughout society.

Related: Russell brand’s testimony on dealing with drug addictionPrescription painkillers kill more every year in usa than heroin and cocaine combined Eminem’s ‘relapse’ explores his drug addition and rehabilitation

Prescription Painkillers Kill More Every Year in USA than Heroin and Cocaine Combined

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs—more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

The abuse of prescription painkillers has risen dramatically in the last 15 years; in 1999 4,000 people were killed by these drugs (less than a third of the current numbers of deaths).

Find more information on prescription drug abuse and treatment options from the United States Center for Disease Control.

Related: Prescription Drug Abuse in the USAPrescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to AdditionDecline in the Misuse of Prescription Drugs in the USA (reported in 2008, was the data accurate?)Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse in the USA

Some key findings from the Council of State Governments study on Prescription Drug Abuse in America (from 2004). The report is obviously a bit outdated but the problem continues to grow.

  • More than 6.2 million people were current illicit users of prescription drugs in 2002.
  • In 2001, prescription drug abuse and misuse were estimated to impose approximately $100 billion annually in health care costs.
  • In Florida, there were 328 deaths attributed to heroin overdoses in 2001 compared to 957 deaths due to overdoses of the prescription pain medications. The trend continued in 2002, when more Floridians died from prescription drug overdoses than use of illegal drugs.

Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction from the NIH (revised in 2011).

Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 52 million people (20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes.

The number of prescriptions for some of these medications has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. Moreover, a consumer culture amenable to “taking a pill for what ails you” and the perception of prescription drugs as less harmful than illicit drugs are other likely contributors to the problem. It is an urgent one: unintentional overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers have quadrupled since 1999, and by 2007, outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine.

Years of research have shown that addiction to any drug (illicit or prescribed) is a brain disease that can be treated effectively. Treatment must take into account the type of drug used and the needs of the individual. Successful treatment may need to incorporate several components, including detoxification, counseling, and sometimes the use of addiction medications. Multiple courses of treatment may be needed for the patient to make a full recovery.

Related: How effective is drug addiction treatment?Center for substance abuse treatment (US HHS)Brett Favre overcomes painkiller addiction

Decline in the Misuse of Prescription Drugs in the USA

The US Department of Health & Human Services Substance – Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration reports a significant decline in the misuse of prescription drugs. The misuse of prescription drugs decreased significantly between 2007 and 2008 among those aged 12 and older, including among adolescents, according to 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). However, the national survey showed that the overall level of current illicit drug use has remained level at about 8%.

The annual NSDUH report also indicated that progress has been made in curbing other types of the illicit drug use. For example, past month methamphetamine use among those aged 12 and older dropped sharply from approximately 529,000 people in 2007 to 314,000 in 2008. Similarly, the level of current cocaine use among the population aged 12 and older has decreased from 1.0% in 2006 to 0.7% in 2008.

Promising results from the latest survey also were also found for the most part among youth (12 to 17 year olds). Among youth there was a significant decline in overall past month illicit drug use, from 11.6% in 2002 to 9.3% in 2008. The rate of current marijuana use among youth has remained level at about 6.7% over the past few years while there have been significant decreases in the current use of alcohol, cigarettes and non-medical use of prescription drugs since 2007.

Historically, young adults have had the highest rates of substance abuse, and for most types of illicit substance abuse the levels have remained steady over the past year. However, over the past three years there has been a steady drop in the rate of heavy alcohol use by full time college students aged 18 to 22 – from a high of 19.5% in 2005 to 16.3% in 2008.

“The survey findings are important because they often point to emerging patterns of substance abuse,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “Although we see some success reversing trends in prescription drug abuse, there are indications that progress in other areas may be at a standstill, or even slipping back, particularly among youth.”

The NSDUH continues to show a vast disparity between the number of number of people needing specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem and the number who actually receive it. According to the survey 23.1 million Americans need specialized treatment for a substance abuse problem, but only 2.3 million (or roughly 10 percent of them) get it.

The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site.

Related: Prescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to AdditionMethamphetamine Abuse Costs U.S. $23.4 BillionDrug Rehab Centers in Los Angeles

Prescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to Addition

Prescription drug abuse: Pain conditions can lead to addictions by Jennifer Wezensky

According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 6.9 million people ages 12 or older used prescription medications for nonmedical use in the month before being surveyed. That total included 5.2 million using pain relievers, 1.8 million using tranquilizers, 1.1 million using stimulants and 350,000 using sedatives.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that about one-third of all U.S. drug abuse is prescription-drug abuse.

Locally, as many as 30 percent of the patients in the inpatient and outpatient treatment at the Community Healing Centers are addicted to prescription drugs, said Sally Reames, executive director of the nonprofit substance-abuse-treatment agency. And many have “secondary” addictions to alcohol, she said, a potentially fatal combination.

People often mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safe because a doctor is prescribing them, said Dr. Michael Liepman, a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies and medical director of the Jim Gilmore Jr. Community Healing Center. Many patients who end up addicted to prescription drugs start with a legitimate pain condition.

“Sometimes people think, ‘If one pill makes me feel better, three will be better,'” said Dr. Richard Tooker, chief medical officer for Kalamazoo County. In the case of pain killers derived from opium, increasing the amount taken can be deadly because these drugs decrease brain activity, breathing rates and heart rates.

The prescription drugs that Reames has observed are most often abused are Vicodin, OxyContin and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.

Liepman said he sees extensive addiction to opiate pain killers, anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan as well as abuse of drugs prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The problems due to abuse of prescription drugs are not as widely known as the problems caused by illegal drugs. While both are serious for many that would not consider taking illegal drugs the dangers of prescription drugs and alcohol are the biggest risks. People must be careful to use powerful drugs as directed and even then understand there are real risks to doing so.

Related: Methamphetamine Abuse Costs U.S. $23.4 BillionBrett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction

Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction

photo of Brett Favre Nov 2006

Brett Favre’s addiction to painkillers (1996)

After the seizure had ended and he had come to his senses, Favre looked into a sea of concerned medical faces and saw Packers associate team physician John Gray. “You’ve just suffered a seizure, Brett,” Gray told him. “People can die from those.” Favre’s heart sank. Upon hearing from doctors in the room that his dependence on painkillers might have contributed to the seizure, he thought, I’ve got to stop the pills, I’ve just got to.

Last season Favre went on such a wild ride with the prescription drug Vicodin, a narcotic-analgesic painkiller, that Tynes feared for his life. He scavenged pills from teammates. At least once he took 13 tablets in a night. But on Tuesday of last week, during his final telephone call before entering the Menninger Clinic, a rehabilitation center in Topeka, Kansas [which moved to Florida in 2003], to treat his dependency (and also to evaluate his occasional heavy drinking), Favre told SI that he hadn’t taken Vicodin since the seizure. “I quit cold turkey,” he said, “and I entered the NFL substance-abuse program voluntarily. I don’t want a pill now, but I want to go into a rehab center because I want to make sure I’m totally clean.

Tynes wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath. She sniffled a few times. “You know,” she said, “he’s changed already. He talks to me again. He takes Brittany and me out. He pays attention to us. A few days ago he hugged me and he thanked me for everything I’ve done, and he said some really nice things to me.”

She wiped her eyes again. “I said, ‘I can’t believe it. The old Brett’s back!'” Time will tell. The true test will start in September.

Time has shown the answer, after struggles for several years, as Brett Favre has continued his amazing NFL career with great success.

Through triumph & tragedy, Deanna and Brett Favre remain a constant

After doctors found severe liver damage in 1996, Brett agreed to enter rehab, and was able to kick his addiction. He and Deanna were married several months later and welcomed daughter Breleigh in 1999, but his problems with substance abuse had not ended. By 1999, Brett had returned to heavy partying, and was abusing alcohol. Deanna contacted a divorce attorney, which helped scare her husband into quitting drinking entirely, according to Deanna.

The 1990s tested their relationship, but Deanna ultimately appreciated that Brett chose to seek help. “He was battling a disease,” she says. “I was trying to support him, and when he started making the right choices by getting the help he needed, that made a difference.”

Life had stabilized for the Favres by 2003: Brett was sober and a Super Bowl-winning icon in Green Bay, and Brittany and Breleigh were healthy and happy. “We were at a good spot in our lives,” Deanna says.

Then, in December 2003, Brett’s father died in a car accident. The following October, Deanna’s 24-year-old brother Casey was killed when his all-terrain vehicle hit a patch of gravel and flipped. Casey had recently overcome his own drug problems, and his girlfriend was eight months pregnant when he died.

In her memoir, Deanna described the loss of her brother as the darkest time in her life, but the darkness would not pass quickly – just days after Casey’s funeral, Deanna was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35.

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