Tag Archives: OxyContin

Prescription Opioids: American Addiction Epidemic

prescription opioids

The number of overdose deaths involving opioids has skyrocketed over the past two decades. Prescription opioids, heroin, and illicit fentanyl carry significant risks for the user; a slight miscalculation in dosing can have fatal outcomes.

Most experts agree that prescription opioids are responsible for the addiction epidemic in America. While it’s somewhat more challenging to acquire narcotics like oxycodone or OxyContin, many doctors continue to prescribe them for all things pain.

We have written about the American opioid addiction epidemic on numerous occasions. We recently shared about the maker of OxyContin – Purdue Pharma – agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges for its role in the public health crisis involving opioids.

Towards the end of November, a federal bankruptcy judge authorized a settlement between the Justice Department and Purdue valued at $8.3 billion, NPR reports. Purdue will plead guilty to three felony counts of criminal wrongdoing.

In our previous post on the subject, we pointed out that Purdue is one of many companies facing a litany of lawsuits for playing a pivotal role in the opioid epidemic. Thousands of lawsuits are pending against narcotic manufacturers and prescription drug distributors alike.

Both state and local governments want to hold companies that have made billions of dollars from the sale of prescription opioids accountable. Lawsuits suggest that ‘big pharma’ knew their products were both addictive and deadly but continued to market them as safe aggressively. What’s more, prescription drug distributors filled suspiciously large orders of narcotics to pharmacies across the country.

Prescription Opioids En Masse

As mentioned above, Purdue Pharma doesn’t stand alone in creating one of the most severe public health crises of our time. Other companies like Johnson & Johnson and three drug distributors are negotiating settlements to end thousands of lawsuits relating to the opioid epidemic, The New York Times reports. If the settlement is approved, billions of dollars will go towards addiction treatment and prevention in areas hardest hit by opioids and overdose.

McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson are working on a $26 billion deal that could shield the companies from any further litigation, according to the article. The three distributors were responsible for filling more than three-quarters of the nation’s opioids orders to pharmacies.

Moreover, the companies largely disregarded suspicious orders, such as shipping enormous quantities of opioids to pharmacies that serviced small populations. For instance, the distributors shipped 21 million prescription opioids to two pharmacies in a West Virginia town of 2,900 people over ten years.

The settlement offer is $4 billion more than the offer made by the companies last year, according to the article. The distributors would pay $21 billion over 18 years, whereas Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion. Part of the companies’ settlement includes an agreement to strengthen drug monitoring programs.

The deal gets money to all of the communities in the United States that are suffering from insult upon injury, first from the opioid epidemic and now with Covid as well,” said Paul J. Hanly Jr., a lawyer representing several small governments. He adds, “We believe it’s in the best interest of these communities to begin receiving a payment stream. We looked at the finances of these companies and believe the numbers are now appropriate.”

Heroin and Fentanyl

America constitutes about five percent of the global population but consumes approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply, CNBC reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 232,000 Americans died from overdoses of prescription opioids from 1999 through 2018. Research shows that roughly 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Prescription painkillers have long been the gateway to illicit opioid use. Heroin and fentanyl are responsible for tens of thousands of opioid overdose deaths. The latter has made many headlines in recent years; fentanyl is often mixed into heroin to boost potency. Fentanyl is also sought out and used purposely.

Fentanyl is often the cause of fatal overdoses, and new research suggests that such deaths are on the rise in the western United States. Cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Seattle have been significantly affected, NPR reports. The increase of fentanyl use in the west contributed to the 72,000 overdose deaths in America last year.

Up through 2018, the vast majority of synthetic opioid overdoses occurred east of the Mississippi River,” said study author Chelsea Shover, an epidemiologist at Stanford University. She adds, “You think you’re using heroin or you think you’re using Ecstasy or Xanax or what looks like an OxyContin pill, but it’s actually fentanyl.”

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Men

If you are struggling with prescription opioids, heroin, or fentanyl, PACE Recovery Center can help. We specialize in the treatment of men who are battling addiction and mental illness. We can help you or a loved one get on the path to recovery. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic in America

opioid addiction

The American opioid addiction epidemic has been relegated to the back burner of late because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not to say opioid addiction and overdose are no longer on the radar; it’s that we’ve been caught up in COVID-19 statistics and our government’s plan to address the situation.

As far as public health crises are concerned, it makes sense that our focus has shifted to the coronavirus—it has stolen more than 220,000 lives in 2020 thus far. Still, the opioid use disorder epidemic should not be forgotten about, even if it’s challenging to focus on more than one public health crisis at a time.

For years, it seemed like opioid addiction and overdoses dominated the headlines; that nearly 100,000 Americans die of an overdose each year seemed like a primary topic of discussion. With each passing week, a new headline involving opioids would be seen having to do with misuse or a new lawsuit against those who profited from overprescribing. However, public attention has pivoted to COVID-19, which has led to more than one million deaths worldwide.

With the nation’s attention on coronavirus, many important stories are being overlooked. You may have missed specific headlines, like the one involving Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.

The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, has been in the limelight in recent years. The primary shareholders of the makers of OxyContin are infamous in America. You may be aware that Purdue touted OxyContin as not carrying a significant risk for addiction. The drug was promoted to prescribers as being safe, despite the steady rise in overdoses since the release of the drug in the mid-’90s.

Purdue’s Role in the Nation’s Opioid Crisis

Last week, Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges related to its marketing practices, The New York Times reports. The company is looking at $8.3 billion in penalties, and the Sacklers have agreed to pay $225 million in civil penalties.

In recent years, thousands of thousands of lawsuits have been brought against Purdue Pharma. States, cities, counties, and tribes are all trying to hold the company and the Sackler family responsible for their role in the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic. The vast majority of people using heroin today used prescription opioids like OxyContin first.

Research shows that 21% of high school seniors who misused prescription opioids and later received an opioid prescription, used heroin by age 35.

While this update is promising news, it’s unlikely that Purdue will pay anything close to the $8 billion; the company has already sought bankruptcy court protection, according to the article. However, the settlement could lead to the resolution of many of the thousands of pending lawsuits. The agreement did not end all the litigation against Purdue, nor does it preclude the filing of criminal charges against Purdue Pharma executives or individual Sacklers.

In a letter to the Department of Justice, relatives of opioid use disorder victims said the agreement falls short. What’s more, Massachusetts has scheduled depositions against some Sacklers for next month.

The D.O.J. failed,” said Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Opioid Addiction During the Pandemic

Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers are the tip of the iceberg. Lawsuits have been filed against other drug companies, including prescription drug distributors that filled pharmacy orders despite evidence of impropriety. The opioid addiction epidemic is nuanced; many players were involved in the problem becoming this bad.

The pandemic has made matters worse, according to a new Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study. The research shows that misuse of fentanyl, heroin, and non-prescribed opioids are on the rise.

The findings indicate that the drug positivity rate increased 35% for non-prescribed fentanyl and 44% for heroin during the pandemic compared to the period before the pandemic (January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for a rise in substance use disorders and other forms of prescription and illicit drug misuse. Stress, job losses and depression compounded with isolation and a lack of access to health services can trigger prescription medication overuse, illicit drug use, or relapses,” said co-author Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Head of Health Trends Research Program, Quest Diagnostics.

It was concerning to learn that the positivity for a combination of drugs was especially pronounced. Positivity for non-prescribed fentanyl and amphetamines increased by 89%, benzodiazepines (48%), cocaine (34%), and opiates (39%). The researchers point out that most overdoses involve concurrent use of benzodiazepines, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

Our Health Trends data demonstrate the consequences of the pandemic, with dramatic increases of misuse of non-prescribed drugs at a time when fentanyl is also on the rise. Our nation is grappling with a drug epidemic inside a pandemic. Patients and providers need increased access to support services, clinical care and drug testing to stop drug misuse from claiming more lives,” Dr. Kaufman said.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Men

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder. Our team utilizes evidence-based therapies to help our clients break the cycle of addiction and learn how to lead a positive life in recovery. We are standing by at 800-526-1851 to answer any questions you have about our gender-specific treatment for men.

Addiction-Free Pain Management

addiction

The search for cures to the world’s most deadly diseases (i.e., cancer and addiction) is one that tends to result in more questions than answers. History indicates, time and time again, that solutions to medical ailments are hard-fought, often taking decades to make progress. Some 37 years have passed since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began its quest for a cure to the human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). While there are medications that can keep HIV/AIDS at bay, a cure still eludes researchers.

We could say the same for many life-threatening health conditions leading to premature death, i.e., cancer, diabetes, and hepatitis C. The disease of addiction could also be added to the list of fatal conditions with no known cure. Like AIDS, recovery from addiction can be managed and maintained, but not cured.

It’s safe to assume that researchers are not on the brink of discovery regarding a cure for addiction. However, if a problem can’t be solved, then a temporary solution is to lessen the number of new cases. Finding ways to prevent individuals from going down the road of addiction is complicated by the method doctors use to treat pain.

Treating Pain Without The Risk of Addiction

Pain is a fact of life. At some point, all of us experience acute or chronic pain. The current means of treating either type of pain is prescription opioids. We don’t need to tell you the result of handling all-things-pain with opioids. Even when something non-addictive, like Tylenol, will work, doctors, more times than not (it seems) still fall back on drugs like OxyContin or Vicodin. The result? We now have more than 2 million opioid addicts in the United States.

At the Society for Neuroscience meeting this week in Washington, D.C., opioids was a significant topic of discussion. Pharmacologist Edward Bilsky, provost and chief academic officer at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, is moderated a panel on pain, addiction, and opioid abuse, NPR reports. One of the topics of discussion: alternatives to opioids in the treatment of pain.

We know a lot more about pain and addiction than we used to,” said Bilsky, “But it’s been hard to get a practical drug.”

Bilsky highlights several areas of pain management that carry fewer risks to patient safety than opioids, such as:

  • Scientists discovered cone snail venom contains substances that act as powerful painkillers affecting non-opioid receptors in the brain. However, the one drug on the market is only administered by spinal column injection.
  • Drugs targeting specific brain circuits which increase or diminish perception of pain; some antidepressants have shown promise.
  • Researchers are also working on ways to erase memories of pain.

Addiction Via Chronic Pain

The definition of chronic pain is experiencing daily discomfort for more than three months. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that at least 25 million people suffer from chronic pain. Given that most of the individuals mentioned above receive prescription opioids, the risk of new opioid addiction cases is high. The need for opiate alternatives is tremendous, and hopefully, progress in the field is on the horizon.

The road to opioid use disorder often begins with chronic pain. When anyone uses a drug like OxyContin for months on end, dependence is inevitable. The hooks of opiate narcotics sink deep, even if one’s pain subsides the need for the drugs lingers on. Patients looking to break free from their painkillers struggle to do so on their own; fortunately, there is help available.

At PACE Recovery Center, an exclusive, gender-specific, extended care, alcohol and drug rehab for men, we’ve seen the devastating effect of reckless overprescribing. We know that people with opioid use disorder are prone to relapse if they do not seek assistance when seeking recovery. Our team of highly-skilled addiction professionals can help you (or a loved one) break the cycle of opioid addiction, and show you how life in recovery is possible. Please contact us today, regardless of which type of drug you are addicted (OxyContin or heroin). We can help.

Fentanyl and Heroin: A Deadly Mixture

fentanyl

The game has changed dramatically regarding illicit opioids in America. What was once a relatively unnoticeable trickle of fentanyl making its way onto the streets has become a whitewater torrent. This fact should be cause for concern for anyone currently abusing heroin or prescription painkillers purchased on the black market. Given that fentanyl has been linked with thousands of overdose deaths, in recent years. As the prevalence of the deadly analgesic increases, people with opioid use disorders would do themselves a great service to consider addiction treatment. Sooner, rather than later.

One not even need to do heroin mixed with fentanyl to experience an overdose; heroin on its own can be more than potent enough. People die from heroin overdoses every day in the United States. However, fentanyl makes something that is already deadly exponentially more fatal. It is worth remembering that fentanyl (depending on quality) is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Opioids, like heroin or morphine, cause respiratory depression. Fentanyl, on the other hand, causes more prolonged respiratory depression. Taken on its own or as an admixture, the risk of overdose is great.

To make matters worse, the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone is often ineffective with fentanyl. That is not to say it never works in cases involving the powerful narcotic. But, users should be aware that if they play with fire, water may not put it out. The fentanyl situation in America is made even more precarious by the fact most heroin users are not aware of the drug’s presence. Making it next to impossible to dose “safely.”

To Fentanyl and Beyond

If you are actively abusing heroin today, it is not just fentanyl that you need to be worried about. Other analogues of the drug are being mixed with heroin or stamped into pills to resemble painkillers, such as OxyContin. Carfentanil is one analogue that has led to deaths, being approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). U-47700, otherwise known as “Pink,” is an opioid analgesic that is around 7.5 times the potency of morphine. The drug has been mixed with heroin or stamped into pills, as well.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been quick to reign in fentanyl analogs of late. Aside from adding the deadly narcotics to the list of controlled substances, they have been pressuring China to ban their production and distribution. Just recently, China placed bans on U-47700 and 3 other compounds, Stat News reports. Hopefully, the bans, which take effect at the beginning of July, will translate to lives saved down the road. Only time will tell. In the meantime, it is important that people with opioid use disorder fully understand the risks. And, the likelihood of buying heroin or fake OxyContin that actually contains something more dangerous.

Fentanyl In Southern California

This month, the DEA busted three traffickers in San Diego who were in possession of 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl, according to a United States Department of Justice news release. It was the culmination of a long-term investigation, and was one the biggest opiate synthetic fentanyl seizures ever in the United States. With the federal indictments, the three individuals could face a maximum penalty of life in prison and up to $10,000,000 in fines.

Considering that just 3 milligrams is enough to kill an adult male, the 44.14 kilogram seizure represents over 14 million lethal doses.”

Fentanyl is a topic that is of the utmost importance to us at PACE Recovery Center. We specialize in the treatment of young adult males, a demographic whose heroin use and overdose rates has been on the rise. While the San Diego fentanyl bust is welcome news, it is probably only the tip of the iceberg. More and more of the drug will find its way into the country. Which is why it paramount that young adults abusing heroin strongly consider addiction treatment. Recovery is possible.

The longer one waits, the greater the risk. Please contact us today to discuss your options and to begin the lifesaving journey of addiction recovery.

Prescription Opioid Tax to Fund Addiction Treatment

prescription opioidsIn the 1990’s the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the United States was just over $1.50. If you happened to be a smoker today, you know all too well that the price has risen exponentially, with an average cost ranging between six and eight dollars. In the state of New York, individuals can pay more than $12.00, the direct result of both state and federal taxes. Heightened cigarette prices have a two-fold effect, they are meant to deter smoking and fund youth smoking prevention campaigns.

Every American adult, at least, is aware that cigarettes are unhealthy and can lead to several different forms of cancer. With that in mind, efforts meant to prevent youth smoking are of the utmost importance, as they are the most vulnerable demographic. Over the last couple decades youth cigarette smoking rates have declined dramatically and the trend continues; it would stand to reason that this decline is the direct result of the efforts of both health organizations by way of tobacco prevention campaigns which are partly funded by the high taxes imposed on “cancer sticks.”

While both tobacco and alcohol still rank high on the list of leading causes of preventable death in the U.S., holding the number 1 and 3 positions respectively, prescription opioid and heroin abuse have been stealing lives at a staggering rate. In fact, accidental drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death for Americans between the ages of 35-54—and the second leading cause for young people, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. With nearly 44,000 people dying from a drug overdose each year, it is crystal clear that the situation is dire; this has prompted lawmakers from every corner of the government to call for action, via opioid prevention and access to addiction treatment services.

Over the last few months legislation was passed in order to make the aforementioned goals a reality, but many argue that despite everyone’s good intentions it will prove difficult to fund the varied programs that rest under the umbrella of the new bills, such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

Practically everyone is in agreement, curbing the over prescribing of opioid painkillers is vital in the effort to prevent future cases of opioid addiction from ensuing, but such campaigns do little to help those who are already addicted to opioids. In 2014, an estimated 1.9 million Americans of the 21.5 million that had a substance use disorder in the United States were addicted to prescription opioids, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports. In the same year there were an estimated 586,000 who had a substance use disorder involving heroin.

Research tells that the majority of today’s heroin users began with prescription opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone). Making it more difficult to acquire opioid analgesics doesn’t mean that one’s addiction will just disappear; without treatment and recovery services the cycle of addiction will continue—forcing addicts to seek other avenues to “get well”—i.e. Heroin.

A number of states, mainly those who have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic, have found it difficult to provide and expand access to addiction treatment services. The issue stems mostly from a lack of funding. If opioid addicts cannot find help, or have to wait incredibly long periods of time between making the decision to go to treatment and actually getting a bed, they are still susceptible to overdose—potentially a fatal one at that. A new bill has been put forward that may be able to generate the desperately needed funds.

A group of U.S. Senators have introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (LifeBOAT). The LifeBOAT Act would establish a permanent funding stream to support efforts to expand access to addiction treatment services, according to a news release from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). The new bill, if passed, would generate funds by imposing a 1 cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription opioid painkiller.

I’ve heard it time and time again from people waging the battle against addiction: we need more treatment options. But today, those options are only dwindling in the face of ever-shrinking budgets, and the sad result is that those who need the help the most simply aren’t getting it,” said Angus King (I-ME). “It’s my hope that this common-sense legislation can help put a stop to that. By establishing a reliable stream of funding, this bill will bolster treatment facilities across the country, increase the amount of services available, and support people as they fight back against addiction – all while doing so in a cost-effective way. We must step up to lend a hand to those who need our help, and this bill does that.”

The opioid milligram tax would fund:

  • New addiction treatment centers, both residential and outpatient.
  • Expanded access to long-term, residential treatment programs.
  • Recruiting and increasing reimbursement for certified mental health providers providing substance abuse treatment.
  • The establishment of and/or operating support programs that offer employment services, housing, and other support services to help recovering addicts reintegrate into society.
  • The establishment of and/or operating substance abuse treatment programs in conjunction with Adult and Family Treatment Drug Courts.
  • The establishment of and/or operating facilities to provide care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To read the text of the bill, click here.

At PACE Recovery Center, our mission is to provide our clients with a safe and supportive environment to help them overcome the challenges they have experienced due to alcohol and drug abuse. We believe that incorporating sound clinical interventions and a lifestyle that encourages health and wellness, in a shame free setting that encourages accountability and responsibility, will help foster long term recovery.

California Emergency Rooms Treating Heroin Poisonings

heroin-overdoseAs the federal government and the implementation of state prescription drug monitoring programs make it more difficult for opioid abusers to get their hands on OxyContin ® (oxycodone), many have turned to heroin as an easier, cheaper and stronger alternative. When compared to a decade ago, today it is much easier for opioid addicts to get their hands on heroin – resulting in a surge of heroin overdoses across the country.

“Most people who use heroin in the U.S. today used prescription opioids first. Reducing inappropriate prescribing will prevent overdose from prescription opioids and heroin,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a news release.

Heroin overdose deaths nearly tripled from 2010 to 2013 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In California, emergency departments have seen a six-fold increase in heroin poisonings in the last decade, Reuters reports. In 2014 alone, California emergency rooms treated 1,300 young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 for heroin poisoning.

“It’s consistent with what we’re seeing in our narcotic treatment programs – just a lot more young people,” said Tom Renfree, who heads substance abuse disorder services for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association in Sacramento.

“There’s been a real spike.”

Heroin poisoning is not exclusive to overdoses; it also represents those who used a product ‘cut’ with something potentially lethal, according to the article. Across the country, there has been a rise in heroin cut with the opioid analgesic Fentanyl ®, users are often unaware just how powerful Fentanyl ® (100 times the strength of morphine) is, making dosing extremely difficult.

Young adults were not the only age group affected in recent years. During the same period, adults ages 30 to 39 who were seen in emergency rooms for heroin poisoning doubled – from about 300 to about 600. Among teenagers, in 2014 there were 367 teens treated for heroin poisoning – compared with about 250 in 2005.

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.

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