In the wake of at least nine fatal drug overdoses in Worcester in less than a week, the city is taking the problem into its own hands by trying to get those struggling with addiction the help they need.

Underneath the charm of Martha's Vineyard's picturesque beaches, peaceful woods and luxury homes is a problem: Since August, there have been six overdose deaths on the island.

"That's a phenomenal rate for a community of 16,000 people — and that's not to mention the overdoses that haven't been fatal," says Charles Silberstein, an addiction specialist and psychiatrist at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. "We've had overdoses for years, but I don't think we've ever seen this kind of number or frequency."

Cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to the lowest level in 22 years, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The percentage of students who reported smoking a cigarette at least one day in the last 30 days fell to 15.7 percent in 2013, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a large federal survey that has been tracking youth smoking since 1991.

For the first time ever, New England's governors will hold a summit to develop common strategies to deal with the region’s growing opiate addiction problem.  

In the last six months, Vermont’s growing opiate problem has received a lot of national attention but it turns out that most of the other New England states are also experiencing similar situations.

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The Food and Drug Administration will now require tanning beds carry a warning label saying they shouldn't be used by persons under the age of 18. Tanning beds emit UV radiation that may cause skin cancer. But the beds may also cause changes to the brain.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a rare memo calling on more first responders to carry Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. Connecticut held its first-ever "overdose prevention summit" on Thursday to explore ways to expand Narcan's reach. 

Heroin was once the scourge of the urban poor, but today the typical user is a young, white suburbanite, a study finds. And the path to addiction usually starts with prescription painkillers.

A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the country found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin.

A key government panel Tuesday voted unanimously against approval of a powerful opioid prescription painkiller intended to provide faster relief with fewer side effects.

At the conclusion of a hearing, the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 14-0 against recommending that the agency approve Moxduo, the first drug to combine morphine and oxycodone into one capsule.

New Haven Independent Melissa Bailey

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy held a roundtable forum on Thursday about how to deal with the heroin problem in Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal described the situation as an "epidemic and [a] scourge." 

Heroin use is rising at an alarming rate here in Connecticut and in the northeast. According to U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, 257 state residents have died from heroin overdoses, many in her district, which covers Torrington and Waterbury. Thursday, Esty met with the mayors of those two cities, along with law enforcement and public health professionals to explore options to combat the problem. 

I was fighting a rat for the remnants of a corn dog I'd salvaged from the trash. That's when I realized I'd crossed the final line I had drawn.

I had told myself, as long as I don't shoot up, I'm OK. As long as I'm not homeless, I'm OK. But now I was shooting up and homeless, and there was nowhere left to draw. I had reached the bottom line of my existence.

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The U.S. is in the middle of a heroin epidemic. It’s something that has become increasingly problematic in northeastern states like Connecticut. This hour, a panel of local reporters and health experts from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts share their stories. 

We also hear about a controversial decision by the state Department of Children and Families to transfer a transgender teenager to one of Connecticut’s adult prisons, even though, as we’ve discussed on the show, the state now has a “locked” facility for girls like her. WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil joins us with more on that story.

Lucy Nalpathanchil

In 2012, a legislative committee found seven percent of Connecticut adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 had substance abuse issues. And the majority of those who needed treatment did not receive it.

In the last story of a three-part series, WNPR reports on the challenges families encounter with their insurance plans when seeking help for their teenage son or daughter.


One out of every 22 Connecticut high schoolers has taken medication such as painkillers that weren’t prescribed for them, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. In the second of a three-part series, WNPR looks at treatment options available for local teens with substance abuse issues.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

A big increase in opiate overdoses nationwide has focused attention on substance abuse. Nine out of ten adults suffering from addiction said they began using drugs or alcohol when they were adolescents.

In the first of a three-part series on youth battling addiction, WNPR introduces you to the Harmons of Guilford.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy joined health advocates, law enforcement, and local service providers today to talk about the growing heroin problem in Connecticut. 

Hartford Police Department

Hartford police said heroin-related overdoses are on the rise in the capital city, and they're trying to disrupt the drug's supply. Earlier this week, police arrested five people, and seized 2,000 bags of heroin. 

Bludgeoner86 on Flickr Creative Commons

There's widespread attention on an increase in heroin overdoses nationwide. On Monday, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder called it an "urgent public health crisis" and suggested law enforcement carry Narcan or naloxone, a drug that can reverse opiate overdoses. 

Mark Wragg/iStock / Thinkstock

Over the last six years, heroin use nationwide has nearly doubled. In Connecticut, attention has focused on the city of Torrington, where there are reports of multiple fatalities last year from heroin overdoses. 

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

This Sunday Conversation with Ruben Castaneda was inspired by WAMU's five-part series, "Crack: The Drug that Consumed the Nation's Capital."

When Ruben Castaneda first moved to Washington, he lived his life along two separate tracks.

Jeng_Niamwhan/iStock / Thinkstock

Heroin use is on the rise in Connecticut and nationwide. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin arrests and seizures in the northeast outpace the rest of the country, two to one.

Jeng_Niamwhan/iStock / Thinkstock

To some it’s "smack"; to others, it’s "tar." But the majority of us know it as heroin, the dangerously addictive opioid drug that has claimed countless lives across the nation. 

Less than a week ago, 46-year-old actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a heroin overdose in his Manhattan apartment. Sadly, he’s just one of many creative minds lost to addiction. Singer-songwriter Janis Joplin was 27 when an overdose took her life. Frankie Lymon was 25.

But heroin isn’t just a celebrity drug. Its use spans the country -- particularly in northeast states, like Connecticut, where it has become a growing problem among teens and adults.

Saturday marks an important milestone in public health – the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health.

Few if any documents have had the impact of this one — both on the amount of disease and death prevented, and on the very scope of public health.

Stagophile / Creative Commons

Fairfield University has opened the state’s first off-campus home for college students recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. The university's Recovery House differs from other substance-free college housing because it’s designed specifically for students who are actively trying to stay sober.

Drug overdoses are usually thought to afflict mainly the poor and troubled. But it looks like OxyContin and other opioid painkillers are changing the picture.

People in stable, middle-class neighborhoods are also dying from opioid overdoses, a study in New York City finds.

Opioids have become among the most popular drugs of abuse in the past decade, with deaths from overdoses of oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine eclipsing those from heroin and cocaine combined.

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There was an internal debate about including a link about a local meteorologist and cat vomit. We passed. If you'd like to see that, you can search it out on your own because we've already said too much. Speaking of cat vomit, CNN informs us that we are in Day Ten of the federal government shutdown, and the debt ceiling deadline is 156 hours away as this is written. That means you have time to watch all of "Battlestar Galactica," "Breaking Bad," and the first seven seasons of "Seinfeld" before the deadline. Hop to it.

Center for Investigative Reporting

The House Veterans Affairs Committee is holding a hearing to find out more about a shocking trend of opiate prescriptions in VA hospitals nationwide.  A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since 9/11, the number of opiate prescriptions has grown 270 percent. CIR says this has contributed to the rate of overdose deaths among veterans that is double the national average.

Adithya Sambamurthy / The Center for Investigative Reporting

A new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since 9/11, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has prescribed opiates at an alarming rate. Between 2001 and 2012, the number of opiate prescriptions has grown 270 percent. CIR says this has contributed to the rate of overdose deaths among veterans that is double the national average.

Millions of Americans have seen the fictional world of meth use and production in AMC's Breaking Bad, but journalist Jonah Engle has spent a lot of time in the real world of meth.

Bludgeoner86 on Flickr Creative Commons

Prescription painkillers have become the most widely-used drugs in America, and the Centers for Disease Control says that deaths from overdose are at “epidemic” levels. The death rate has tripled since 1990.

Doctors are prescribing fewer of the opiates, because they fear addiction, abuse and illegal black market sales.