Overdose Risks Higher During Pandemic

A recent article from NPR highlighted new risks for drug users who are struggling to find legitimate drugs during the pandemic. People hoarding supplies and illicit supply drying up due to COVID-19 restrictions have led to an increase in overdoses, with many of them deadly. Why Are People Overdosing More? One of the reasons opioid use has become more dangerous is the halting of the supply. Fewer drugs mean more customers for street dealers. Sometimes, they can’t get it from their “regular guy” and must try somebody new. There are no standard formulations for illicit street drugs—some users overdose due to a different, more potent formulation than they are used to using. Other drug users may end up with a pill that’s laced with fentanyl, a drug that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than Morphine. Most people who seek out opioids on the street can’t tolerate such a high threshold; fentanyl is one of the primary causes of a deadly overdose in America today. Drug Influx Halted, But It’s…

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Is the Opioid Crisis Worse Than We Thought?

New research on the opioid crisis published by Addiction journal shows that the opioid epidemic’s numbers are as much as shows that overdose deaths might be as much as 28% higher than previously reported. A significant number of deaths may have been left out of reporting for several years. Where Are The Unreported Deaths? In Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Indiana, the actual final numbers of deaths may have been previously underreported by as much as 50%. Nearly 72% of “unclassified drug overdoses” that occurred between 1999-2016 involved prescription opioids, heroin, or fentanyl. However, due to the victims having other drugs in their systems, they are marked as “unclassified”, even if it’s most likely that the opioids killed that person. For example, a person with Oxycontin and marijuana in their system might have their death left unclassified, even if it’s very unlikely that marijuana killed them. All in all, the number of unclassified deaths during the opioid crisis was estimated at 99,160. These deaths remain unclassified due to swamped coroner’s…

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Opioid Victims, Families Can Begin Suing Purdue Pharma

A federal judge has decided that victims of the opioid epidemic have the right to sue Purdue Pharma for damages, but all claims must be filed by June 30, 2020. This is when the company will begin its bankruptcy proceedings. Purdue has also reached a settlement with a portion of some states and local governments. Although the settlement amount has not been disclosed, it’s been reported that it could be worth more than $10 billion. The presiding Judge, Robert Drain, says it’s important to note that an official amount for settlement has not yet been reached. What is Purdue Settling For? Purdue Pharma has faced hundreds of lawsuits accusing them of creating the opioid epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans in the past several years. They are accused of using coercive marketing tactics with doctors, even though they knew there were addictive properties in their opioids like Oxycontin. They often would encourage doctors to “titrate up” patients, even though the level of pain medication prescribed to…

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Parents Who Use Marijuana Likely Have Kids Who Use It, Too

Years ago, anti-drug commercials issued a warning to people that kids often follow in their parents' footsteps when it comes to drug use. Much of the anti-drug commercials from that era are considered to be propaganda. A new study finds that parents that smoke weed also have teens that smoke it, and the teens are more likely to use other substances as well. Marijuana use in the United States is increasing with laws that end the prohibition of the substance. For many people, marijuana is just one drug that they use, making authorities worried that this will be true for the teens that use marijuana today. What Was in this Marijuana Study? The study followed the parents as well as their offspring, including the drug use of 24,900 fathers and mothers. The study found that parental marijuana use was associated with increased risk of marijuana, nicotine, and opioid misuse by both adolescent and young adults. Young people were also more likely to abuse alcohol at earlier ages if their…

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Richmond Tests “First Responders for Recovery” Program

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, Richmond Virginia launched a new program meant to save the lives of people struggling with addiction. The Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and Richmond City Health District (RCHD) announced the new initiative, dubbed “First Responders for Recovery”. The program, modeled as an evidence-based program, helps people struggling with substance use by connecting them to local recovery resources. The program uses a Peer Recovery Specialist named Courtney Nunnally. Courtney herself is a person in recovery. She’s been inspired to help others who struggle and offer them some hope.  “This program is a way for me to give others hope and a path to recovery and I really believe it will save lives.” What Do “First Responders for Recovery” Do? As a Peer Recovery Specialist, Courtney offers a unique perspective to EMTs and paramedics and EMTs. When a person overdoses, they are often feeling vulnerable and need guidance. They may be receptive to trying to get clean and sober, but overwhelmed or without the resources…

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What We’ve Learned From Johnson and Johnson’s Opioid Trial So Far

In Oklahoma, a battle is being waged between state attorneys and the pharmaceutical giant.  State attorneys state in their lawsuit that Johnson & Johnson has played a large role in the opioid epidemic in the state, accusing sales representatives of deceptively promoting opioids to doctors. Johnson & Johnson Trial Heats Up The state says that  company representatives made 140,000 sales calls to Oklahoma doctors over a period of years, among other aggressive marketing tactics. This allegedly led to overprescription, addiction, and ultimately death for those unfortunate enough to overdose. Brad Beckworth, a lawyer for the state, went to the stand last week to ask Kimberly Deem-Eshleman, the company's corporate representative, about those calls and other tactics used by sales reps. Last Week, Dr. Russell Portenoy, a leading pain expert testified that Johnson & Johnson understated the risk of abusing opioids or the risl of addiction. In a taped testimony, the doctor stated that Big Pharma “overstated the benefits of chronic-opioid therapy’’ and “understated the risk of abuse, addiction and…

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U.S. Justice Department Joins Suboxone Lawsuit

The U.S. Justice Department has joined a lawsuit alongside several whistleblowers that alleges that the companies marketed off-label and higher dosages than approved, as well as other deception. Several ex-workers are in the process of suing on behalf of the government, as whistleblower laws allow. It appears the government is now up to speed on the wrongs listed in lawsuits against Indivior Plc. and Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, both involved in marketing the opioid addiction treatment Suboxone. What is the Lawsuit About? One of the complaints unsealed on Aug. 2 was filed by former Reckitt employee Ann Marie Williams, claiming that the companies marketed unapproved dosages and uses of Suboxone and Subutex. Williams Reckitt made misleading claims to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain approval for a dissolvable film version of Suboxone. The lawsuits were filed under the False Claims Act, a law that allows whistleblowers to sue companies on the government’s behalf. Now it seems the government is willing to intervene in the cases as well,…

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Many Addiction Centers Won’t Use Medication-Assisted Treatment

According to US News, the majority of drug and alcohol treatment centers in the United States don’t offer three standard Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) services, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends and encourages them for people with opioid use disorder. Only six percent of treatment centers in the United States offered all three medications, while about thirty-six percent of treatment centers offer one MAT drug for opioid users. MAT drugs help users curb their desire to use, or help with other side-effects and withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone are the only drugs approved by the FDA for long-term treatment of opioid use disorder. The drugs are viewed as safe and effective by regulators and researchers, but often there is a stigma attached to the medications. Many treatment centers prefer to use traditional therapy and 12-step meetings rather than provide clinical services. Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and lead study author, and his team…

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Dark Web Drug Dealers Say They’ve Banned Fentanyl

Owners of websites on the dark web say that they’ve decided to voluntarily ban fentanyl, according to the National Crime Agency based in the UK. The “open air” online drug outlets have done this in a bid to avoid additional scrutiny as reports from the US, and the UK show that fentanyl is now causing the most overdose deaths each year. In the UK alone, 180 deaths in 18 months were attributed to fentanyl, while in the US, fentanyl overdoses doubled in 2016 to outpace heroin and Oxycontin. Several large drug-dealing websites have also quietly“de-listed” fentanyl because they don’t want to be investigated when there is an overdose death, according to Vince O’Brien, an investigator at the UK National Crime Agency. So-called dark web markets have popped up in recent years and have become a reliable source for drug dealers to get their supply. Users place an order using bitcoins, which allow some anonymity when both are buying and selling the products. Many opioids are sold in powder form…

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Despite Addiction Worries, FDA Panel Quietly Approves a Stronger Opioid

An FDA panel gave preliminary approval to a new kind of opioid drug meant to treat severe pain such as the kind people experience during surgery. The drug, sufentanil, which will be marketed under the brand name Dsuvia, is actually five to 10 times stronger than fentanyl. Surprisingly, the drug advisory committee voted 10-3, approving the drug. While this doesn’t set approval in stone, the FDA usually follows the advisory committee’s instruction. While the FDA has been pushing for more restrictions on opioids, there was no mention of fears of addiction or overdose in the discussions. There was one dissenting opinion, however; Raeford E. Brown Jr., MD, who chairs the committee. Dr. Brown doesn’t like the idea of allowing another potent and lethal opioid into the drug market, where fentanyl rules the day when it comes to accidental overdoses. He worries that some doctors won’t pay attention to dosing, which could also be dangerous. With the approval, the pharmaceutical company itself is pretty thrilled to reveal a new product.…

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