Tag Archives: overdose deaths

OxyContin Overdoses Drop – Heroin Overdoses Rise

needle-exchangeIn the United States, prescription drug overdoses are responsible for taking thousands of lives each year. While efforts to promote abuse-deterrent drugs and the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs has had some promising results, the drop in prescription drug overdoses and prescribing rates has led to a surge in heroin overdoses, HealthDay reports.

In 2010, the makers of OxyContin released a new version of the drug which incorporated abuse-deterrent properties. New research indicates that in the two years following the drug’s new formulation OxyContin related overdoses dropped 19 percent and prescriptions of the drug decreased 19 percent, according to the article.

“This is the first time in the last two decades that narcotic prescribing had dropped, rather than continued to increase,” said lead researcher Dr. Marc Larochelle, an instructor at Boston University School of Medicine.

“With the pill, you used to be able to crush it up and either snort it or dissolve it and inject it. Now if you try and crush it, it doesn’t turn into a powder — it just kind of balls up, and if you try and dissolve it, it turns into a goo,” Larochelle explained.

Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic exhibits the properties of a hydra, cut off one head only to be faced with another. In the same time period, the researchers found that the rate of heroin overdoses increased 23 percent.

“Reducing supply may have led some people who are abusing these drugs to substitute an illicit narcotic like heroin, and it may partially explain why we have seen an explosion in heroin use across the country,” Larochelle said.

Larochelle points out that simply altering drug formulations will not, in and of itself solve the drug abuse problem.

“But it shows supply could be one part of the issue. Abuse-resistant formulations will not cure people who are addicted to narcotics. It could, however, prevent or slow down the number of new people who become addicted, because many people who use heroin may have started with pills,” he said.

The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Need for Naloxone Price Reductions

naloxoneIn the fight against the prescription drug epidemic and subsequent opioid overdose deaths affecting every state in America, no other weapon has saved as many lives as naloxone. The life saving drug, if used in a timely manner, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In many states, law enforcement officials have begun carrying easy to use naloxone kits, giving first responders the tools to save lives.

Sadly, seeing the market value of naloxone has caused the drug’s maker to rapidly increase prices, making it difficult to afford for city and state governments. In the epicenter of the problem New York, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, the makers of naloxone, made a deal with New York attorney general that would provide $6 rebate per dose to New York state agencies, The Hill reports. This move came in the wake of a New York Times article, which reported that the drug’s price had increased by as much as 50 percent.

Now, two state legislators are calling for a nationwide price reduction so that the drug can have a further reaching effect. The high price of naloxone has prevented its widespread use, according to the article.

“Over the past several months, police departments, law enforcement agencies, and public health officials across the country have warned about the increasing price of naloxone, which they use to combat the scourge of heroin abuse,” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote in a letter to Amphastar.

“Although we are encouraged by your stated willingness to work with other states, it remains unclear why your company has not already lowered its prices in states other than New York,” the lawmakers wrote. “The rapid increase in the cost of this life-saving medication in such a short time frame is a significant public health concern.”

As more states pass laws which increase access to naloxone, the need for price reductions will only grow.

2016 Budget Focuses on Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription-drug-epidemicThe prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States has created a new generation of addicts. Years of over prescribing and poor oversight allowed the problem to grow to epic proportions, ushering in a new wave of heroin addiction in America. While moves have been made to get a handle on the problem, some efforts are more effective than others; the reality is that the problem doesn’t appear to be getting much better.

The White House’s 2016 budget focuses on prescription drug abuse; it includes new measures aimed at reducing opioid overdoses in America, The Hill reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) will see increased program funding, as well other agencies working to get control of the problem.

Individual states will receive aid to expand their prescription drug monitoring programs, this will allow for better tracking of “doctor shoppers” and “pill mills.” Wider distribution of naloxone is needed, a drug which can save lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. Providing law enforcement with naloxone will strengthen the likelihood of saving a life, due to the fact that they are usually the first to respond.

More education is needed regarding the dangers prescription drugs carry with them, many who walk out of the doctor’s office do not understand that these drugs are not only highly addictive – they can be lethal.

“Every day, more than 100 people die as a result of drug overdose, and more than 6,700 are treated in emergency departments,” a budget summary document stated. “Abuse of prescription and illicit drugs, such as heroin, is an urgent public health concern.”

Generally the new budget will spend nearly $4 trillion in total, raising the ceiling on the spending limits introduced under the 2011 budget deal, according to the article. It has been estimated that the new budget would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years.

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