addiction

Heather Brandon illustration / WNPR

As heroin and opiate addictions continue to spread among middle class communities, families who never thought they’d face this problem are finding out one simple truth: treating someone for an addiction can be really, really costly. 

Scientists and doctors say the case is clear: The best way to tackle the country's opioid epidemic is to get more people on medications that have been proven in studies to reduce relapses and, ultimately, overdoses.

Yet, only a fraction of the more than 4 million people believed to abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the U.S. are being given what's called medication-assisted treatment.

Heather Brandon illustration / WNPR

Dave Mountuori sipped on a coffee and leaned back in his chair at a doctor's office in New Haven. He's 26 years old, and he was there to get a drug that’s turning his life around. 

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Lawrence and Memorial Hospital is donating the life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan to six police departments around southeastern Connecticut. 

Heather Brandon illustration / WNPR

When it comes to understanding heroin and opioid deaths, data matters. But across the country, medical examiners and coroners vary widely in just how much information they provide on death certificates.

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Efforts to stem the tide of heroin overdoses in Connecticut could get more difficult if a powerful new heroin additive makes its way to the state.

Michael Burghardt couldn't sleep. His legs were shaking, his bones ached and he couldn't stop throwing up.

Burghardt was in the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, N.H. This was his 11th stay at the jail in the last 12 years. There had been charges for driving without a license, and arguments where the police were called. This time, Burghardt was in after an arrest for transporting drugs in a motor vehicle.

The musician Prince had an appointment to meet with an addiction doctor the day after he died, a lawyer for that doctor said during a news conference this afternoon.

Minnesota Public Radio reports:

Casey Fleser / Creative Commons

Physicians, patients, and drug manufacturers are often at the center of discussions about pain and opioid abuse. But what about insurance providers? One Connecticut company said it's found a way to better manage pain, while reducing the number of prescribed opioids. 

As part of a new statewide initiative in Connecticut, law enforcement will now treat all overdoses as crime scenes with the goal of getting to the source of the deadly drugs. 

When Kevin Polly first started abusing Opana ER, a potent prescription opioid painkiller, he took pills — or fractions of pills — and crushed them into a fine powder, then snorted it.

When Opana pills are swallowed, they release their painkilling ingredient over 12 hours. If the pills were crushed and snorted, though, the drug was released in a single dose.

"Just think about it," Polly says, "12 hours of medicine, and, 'BAM!' you're getting it all at once."

Alan Cleaver / Creative Commons

Pre-prohibition research into alcohol use and consumption was wiped out when the country dried out in the 1920s. In response, American "alcohol science" was created in the post-prohibition era to bring alcohol abuse into the medical realm, triggering a cultural explosion between advocates on each side of the wet/dry divide. It was in this arena that Alcoholics Anonymous was born. 

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Hartford HealthCare has opened a new addiction treatment center in Cheshire as part of an effort to battle opioid addiction in as many communities as possible. 

Here's how I knew I liked Patti Trabosh.

It goes back to the very first time I called her out of the blue to ask whether I might profile her family for a story on opioid addiction. The very first words out of her mouth were, "I'm pissed off!"

Trabosh went on to explain why she was angry. First, it was the struggle to find a bed in a drug treatment program for her 22-year-old son Nikko Adam. He had become addicted to prescription painkillers and then heroin when he was still in high school. He'd been in rehab twice before, and relapsed both times.

State lawmakers will consider several bills designed to fight opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has scheduled a suite of bills designed to address the state’s ongoing heroin and prescription drug crisis. One would mandate insurance coverage for at least 90 days of inpatient addiction treatment for patients who meet certain standards. That’s in contrast to the 30 days or less most insurers allow. 

The epidemic of opioid abuse that's swept the U.S. has left virtually no community unscathed, from big cities to tiny towns.

In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in this country: more than gun deaths; more than car crashes.

When she was 17, Tracey Helton Mitchell was prescribed an opioid pain killer after getting her wisdom teeth extracted. The medicine helped her deal with the pain related to the extraction, but when the prescription ran out, her desire for its euphoric high remained. That's when she turned to heroin.

Charles Williams / Creative Commons

This hour -- from Maine to New Hampshire; Vermont to Massachusetts -- we learn how some of our New England neighbors are working to stem opioid addiction and overdose. 

C-SPAN

Democrats in the U.S. Senate used debate on a bipartisan opioid abuse prevention bill to call for action on President Barack Obama’s eventual nominee to the Supreme Court.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A bill that would let prosecutors seek felony charges in possession cases involving heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and more than 14 grams of cocaine is gaining support.

The Portland Press Herald reports that members of the Maine Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 8-4 Monday in Augusta in favor of the bill.

The bill would also downgrade possession of small amounts of oxycodone pills to a misdemeanor.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Sen. Susan Collins has joined the growing number of senators calling for passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. 

The measure would provide for additional prevention and education efforts aimed at the drug crisis and for additional resources to treat addicted jail inmates.

"It is clear Mr. President that we need to take a comprehensive approach to this epidemic and the bill before us is a vital step forward," Collins said today on the Senate floor.

The Opioid Treatment Business Is Booming

Mar 1, 2016

Ray Tamasi, the president and CEO of Gosnold on Cape Cod, has been working in addiction treatment for more than four decades. But he’s never seen anything like what he’s seeing now: private equity investors lining up to get into the treatment business.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I’ve been doing presentations at private equity firms [that] want to understand behavioral health because they want to understand and invest in it,” Tamasi said. “I’ve done more of those in the past year than I’ve done in my entire career.”

A Boston nonprofit plans to soon test a new way of addressing the city's heroin epidemic. The idea is simple. Along a stretch of road that has come to be called Boston's "Methadone Mile," the program will open a room in March with a nurse, some soft chairs and basic life-saving equipment — a place where heroin users can ride out their high, under medical supervision.

Cathy Fennelly tried to save her son from heroin addiction.

For eight years, she tried to help him get sober. She told him he couldn't come home unless he was in treatment. It tormented her, knowing that he might be sleeping on the streets, cold at night.

But nothing worked. In 2015, she found him dead from an overdose on her front step.

"No matter how many detoxes I put him in, no matter how many mental facilities; I emptied out my 401(k), I sold my jewelry," she says. "This will never get easier. Never."

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Families affected by the epidemic of opiate addiction got a chance to share their stories with the Director of National Drug Control Policy Tuesday, at a forum in New London.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown New London Thursday night in a vigil aimed at drawing attention to the recent epidemic of heroin overdoses. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in Washington yesterday titled “Attacking America’s Epidemic of Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.”  It came as legislators consider the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.  Several of the witnesses that appeared at the hearing were from the Northeast, including New Hampshire’s senators and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

A few days into heroin detox—when you’re still in the throwing-up phase of withdrawal—is not a good time to learn your insurance is refusing to pay for your stay. That’s what happened to 22-year-old Joe (a pseudonym) in 2012 when he was in an inpatient detox in Oregon.

Cape Cod is the setting of a new documentary about the nation’s growing opioid problem that airs on HBO later this month.

And as he campaigns for new measures to deal with the state’s opioid epidemic, Gov. Charlie Baker invited lawmakers and others involved in the issue to an early screening Tuesday night.

On January 16, 1920, Americans took their last legal drink for 13 years. In New York City, gadflies wore black clothes and funeral robes in anticipation of the Volstead Act kicking off Prohibition at midnight. Reporters for the Daily News imagined the last words of John Barleycorn: “I’ve had more friends in private and more foes in public than any other man in America.” 

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