addiction

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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. 

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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.” 

Frankie Leon / Flickr Creative Commons

Opioid overuse is America’s “silent epidemic,” affecting far too many of the roughly eight million people on opioid painkillers.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC says overprescribing is to blame.  "Every single day, 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin or Methadone," he said. "These drugs are commonly prescribed in every community, and a surge in prescriptions has been the main force of this epidemic."

On the eve of the New York Yankees American League wild-card game against the Houston Astros, pitcher CC Sabathia issued a written statement that he was checking himself into alcohol rehab.

The Yankees released the statement. Here's part of it:

"Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, alongside dozens of law enforcement officers, medical experts and advocates Tuesday, announced a new campaign designed to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic.

The price of a medication that can reverse a drug overdose has doubled over the past year. Now Rhode Island  will be getting a small break in the price of Narcan (the brand name for naloxone).               

His ambulance sirens blaring and several police scanners transmitting information simultaneously, Boston Emergency Medical Services Deputy Superintendent Edmund Hassan is speeding to a call that someone is unconscious. Because his workers administer the overdose reversal drug naloxone (more commonly known by its brand name, Narcan) about three times a night, he suspects it’s an opioid overdose.

The radios crackle, and it’s confirmed: an overdose. Additional workers are dispatched to the scene.

Ever heard of a diabetic patient who ate a large muffin before having a blood glucose test, was scolded for giving in to temptation, and then told to just say no to carbs?

How about a cardiac patient who has a worrisome stress test and is shown the door when she admits to eating a few Big Macs?

That kind of response is all too familiar for patients whose brains have been altered by heroin or other opiates.

Vermont will get $4 million during the next four years from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent overdose deaths caused by prescription opiate drugs.

Young people who use e-cigarettes are very likely to move on to smoking real tobacco products. That’s the conclusion of a new study co-authored by researchers from Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says the state has reached a first-in-the-nation agreement with the maker of an opioid overdose reversal drug.

If you've ever had surgery, you may have been given an analgesic named fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a favored painkiller because it acts fast. But it's also 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The powerful drug has made its way to the streets and increasingly is being used to cut heroin — resulting in a deadly combination.

The state’s opioid crisis is becoming increasingly clear in public places, where it’s not uncommon to find syringes littering the ground.

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh responded to complaints about syringes by creating the two-person Mobile Sharps Collection Team. It’s run out of the same building as the AHOPE Boston needle exchange program.

FrankieLeon / Creative Commons

Opioid overuse is America’s “silent epidemic,” affecting far too many of the roughly eight million people on opioid painkillers.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC says overprescribing is to blame.  "Every single day, 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin or Methadone," he said. "These drugs are commonly prescribed in every community, and a surge in prescriptions has been the main force of this epidemic."

New Hampshire is in the throes of a drug epidemic driven by prescription opioids and heroin.

"The state of New Hampshire loses a citizen to an overdose death about every day," said Tym Rourke, chairman of the New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Intropin / Creative Commons

Last month, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared heroin use a national public health crisis. Connecticut, like much of the rest of country, is grappling with an alarming rise in heroin and opiate painkiller addiction and overdose. 

New data shows the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts is worse than public health officials feared.

The number of opioid deaths in 2014 totaled 1,256 according to revised numbers released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.   Initial estimates had 1,008 people dying of drug overdoses last year. 

And, the epidemic shows no signs of lettering up.  An estimated 312 people are thought to have died of an overdose in the first three months of this year. 

In Pennsylvania, it's estimated opioids like heroin killed at least 1,300 people last year. In Massachusetts, more than 1,000 have died, and in Connecticut, heroin deaths jumped more than 85 percent in two years.

But figuring out the size and scope of the problem is harder than many people think.

Pennsylvania, like many states, doesn't require reporting of specific details on drug overdoses, and whatever other information is available is at least two years old.

The problem of opiate addiction in Maine is one that state Rep. Barry Hobbins knows something about. "One of my family members has been struggling with this dreaded addiction of opiates for six years," he says.

So when pharmaceutical company Pfizer — which makes opioids that have abuse-deterrent properties — asked Hobbins to sponsor a bill that would require insurance companies to cover these more expensive drugs at the same level as other opioids, he agreed.

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