Large Percentage of Deaths by Drug Overdose May be Suicides


Between 25 and 45 percent of deaths by overdose may be suicides, according to the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Maria Oquendo told NBC News the opioid epidemic is occurring at the same time suicides have risen to a 30-year high. One study of overdoses from prescription opioids found almost 54 percent were unintentional. The rest were either suicide attempts or undetermined, the article notes. Few doctors are looking for a connection between opioid addiction and suicides, Dr. Oquendo said. “They are not monitoring it,” she said. “They are probably not assessing it in the kinds of depths they would need to prevent some of the deaths.”

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Connect People With Support Services to Fight Opioid Epidemic: Surgeon General


Connecting people with support services such as food and housing is a key step in curbing the opioid epidemic, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said recently. “We’ve got to be more innovative in terms of helping folks understand that providing all these services will increase their chances of success and ultimately lower cost,” Adams said at an event sponsored by Faces and Voices of Recovery and Indivior. “That’s what I want Congress to know, that’s what I want policymakers to know — we’re not throwing good money after bad; we’re actually getting a return on investment by wrapping people with the support services they need to be successful in recovery.” Adams said his brother self-medicated to cope with untreated mental health issues, The Hill reports. “He ended up committing criminal activity to support his habit and is now in state prison a few miles away from here in Maryland because of his...

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Advocacy Groups Oppose Trump Administration Cuts to Drug Policy Office


More than 150 organizations working to fight the opioid epidemic are opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), The Hill reports. The groups, led by the Addiction Policy Forum, sent a letter to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is leading the administration’s response to the opioid crisis. Groups that signed the letter include those involved in prevention, treatment, recovery and criminal justice, the article notes. Last month, CBS News reported the Trump Administration is planning to cut more than $340 million from ONDCP’s budget. The administration will eliminate the agency’s grant-making capabilities. Two grant programs–the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and Drug-Free Communities–would be relocated to, and managed by, the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services. “Not only would such a move drastically weaken these vitally important programs, and force them to compete for priority, direction, and funding...

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Governors Call for More Money and Coordination to Fight Opioid Epidemic


The National Governors Association called on President Trump and Congress to provide more funds and coordination to fight the opioid epidemic. The governors are asking for a federal requirement that opioid prescribers undergo training, Time reports. The group says health care professionals who prescribe opioids should register to use state databases that monitor controlled substance prescriptions. They are also seeking increased access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and asked that Medicare cover methadone treatment for senior citizens. “The opioid and heroin epidemic knows no boundaries, and governors across the country are keenly aware of the challenges it poses for our communities and the growing need for comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to help end the epidemic,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a news release. “The recommendations the National Governors Association is releasing today build on existing efforts to increase federal funding and access to treatment, improve training and education standards, and...

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Alcohol: America’s #1 Addiction Problem


More than two million Americans are addicted to opioids, ranging from the illegal drugs heroin and fentanyl to the prescription medications OxyContin and Vicodin, yet eight times as many people misuse or are addicted to a substance that is more widely available and easier to access. This substance is alcohol. Despite the fact that it has largely retreated from public consciousness in the context of the current opioid epidemic, research shows that rates of alcohol misuse and addiction are on the rise. The Rates Continue To ClimbRecent reports indicate that nearly 16 million people ages 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), better known as alcohol addiction. This represents an almost 50 percent increase from figures reported just 10 years prior.Additionally, the number of people who engage in high-risk drinking (more than five drinks at a given time for men, four for women) increased by nearly 30 percent over...

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Understanding the Difference between Physical Dependence and Addiction


In a recent hearing before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic and what his agency is doing to address it. While Dr. Gottlieb is not the first to note the massive scale of this crisis, he did bring up one often-overlooked component of its much-needed solution – distinguishing between an opioid addiction and a physical dependence on opioids. Although frequently conflated, differentiating between these two conditions is essential to break the stigma associated with what has proven to be the most effective form of opioid addiction treatment: medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a treatment approach that combines the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine with behavioral counseling. To make progress in ending the opioid epidemic and help people with addiction, families, health professionals and policymakers must understand and appreciate the important difference between physical dependence and addiction,...

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Kellyanne Conway Will Oversee White House Response to Opioid Epidemic


White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will lead the White House response to the opioid epidemic, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced. Sessions said Conway will be charged with helping change the perception about opioids and reducing addictions and deaths, Newsweek reports. Conway, a lawyer, has no formal experience in drug policy or law enforcement, the article notes. Before working for the Trump Administration, she had her own polling company. Conway has promoted prevention programs as a way to combat drug use. In October, Conway told Fox News, “The best way to stop people from dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place. That’s a big core message for our youth.”

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Veterans Especially Hard Hit by Opioid Epidemic


The opioid epidemic has taken an especially heavy toll on U.S. veterans, Reuters reports. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of opioid painkillers. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the highest risk of opioid addiction, federal data indicates. Senator John McCain has sponsored the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which would fund research to help Veterans Administration (VA) doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain. The bill is stalled in Congress, the article notes. “The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said McCain, a Vietnam veteran. The VA system has treated 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, according to a department spokesman. The Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has started testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on...

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Senators: Repeal Law That Impedes DEA’s Ability to Crack Down on Opioid Distribution


Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would repeal a law they say hampers efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic. According to a report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act impeded the DEA’s authority to freeze suspicious shipments of opioids in order to reduce the flow of painkillers to the black market. CNN reports Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia have called for the repeal of the legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2016. The law passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities,” McCaskill said in a statement. “I’ll be introducing legislation that repeals this law...

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President Asked to Formally Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency


Ten Democratic senators sent President Trump a letter asking him to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, USA Today reports. Trump announced in August he was declaring a national emergency, but he has not yet taken formal steps to do so. If he does officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, then FEMA can make money available to states. States could also request aid, and public health workers could be redeployed to fight the epidemic. “Regardless of whether you choose to declare a state of emergency, continued inaction on this issue is deeply concerning,” the senators wrote. “In order to effectively treat this crisis with the urgency it demands, we believe you must take action immediately to expand treatment capacity, increase prevention efforts (including prescriber education initiatives), improve data sharing, and support detection and interdiction efforts to address the supply side of this epidemic – all recommendations for...

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