Opioids in the News

August 2019

The Truth About Painkiller Addiction
(The Atlantic)

In this article, Salley Satel, a psychiatrist, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the co-author of Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, makes the case for primary prevention which reaches beyond monitoring overprescribing. She argues that policy makers and providers need to prioritize identifying those most vulnerable to substance use disorders such as those with childhood traumas or behavioral health conditions. For example, the article profiles a young man whose parents believed his substance use disorder to be rooted in a dental procedure and subsequent prescription, "yet when they learned the depth of their son’s unhappiness, they realized that the prescription was not the full problem." Satel urges, "the best time to correct course is now—while the opioid problem still commands public attention, and before the restrictions imposed at the height of the crisis harden into permanent practice." Read the full article.

View the full Network Digest from August 2019. 

July 2019

Motorcycle Crash Shows Bioethicist The Dark Side Of Quitting Opioids Alone
(NPR, Fresh Air)

Author Travis Rieder, joined Terry Gross on Fresh Air to discuss his new book, In Pain, A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle With Opioids. They talked about his struggle with tapering, the cost of opioids versus alternative pain therapies, and compared the response to prescription drug misuse versus the criminalization of heroin use. Click here to listen to the full interview or read the interview highlights.




We can't fight opioids by controlling demand alone
(The Washington Post)

In this article, Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and affiliated faculty member at Stanford Law School and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute compares Vancouver. B.C. and West Virginia’s policy response to the opioid epidemic. The two regions implemented two different unilateral approaches - one overwhelmingly limited the upstream supply of opioids, and another provided harm reduction services, yet their drug overdose death rates are nearly identical. Humphreys asserts that one cannot fully address the epidemic without the other. Both approaches are needed to save lives and create lasting change. Click here to read more.
View the full Network Digest from July 2019. 

June 2019

Naloxone Has Made Overdosing Less Terrifying
(The Atlantic)

According to the DOPE Project, a program run by the Harm Reduction coalition, in 2018, San Francisco paramedics reversed roughly the same amount of overdoses with naloxone as laypeople, primarily people who use drugs. This article shares stories from people who use drugs in San Francisco, witness overdoses regularly, and are the "life-saving, Narcan-wielding heroes in this story". 

Pregnant women with substance use disorders need treatment, not prison

Since the 1970s, more than 1,000 women in the United States have been incarcerated solely for substance use during pregnancy. This article explores how this practice persists and negatively affects both women and their children. Studies have informed effective treatment methods specifically for women during pregnancy and parenting, though residential treatment for women and their children is available in less than half of California's 58 counties. 
View the full Network Digest from June 2019. 

May 2019

Overdoses in California prisons up 113% in three years — nearly 1,000 incidents in 2018

(San Francisco Chronicle)

Officials are observing an alarming spike in overdoses in California prisons. They attribute the trend to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the nationwide opioid crisis. Even the most secure prison facilities are challenged by fentanyl because of the strength of small doses and the ease of smuggling such quantities. Autopsy reports reveal that fentanyl contributed to at least four deaths in San Quentin in the past two years. Moving forward, State Sen. Nancy Skinner, chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee says that "this year’s state prison budget will focus more on the root cause of overdoses" and prioritize treatment.
Last week, the founder and several executives at Insys Therapeutics, a major opioid company, were found guilty of criminal racketeering. The trial revealed that Insy went to great lengths to promote their product including paying doctors to prescribe heavily, lying to insurance companies, giving doctors lap dances, ridiculous marketing strategies including producing a rap video. There are hundreds of lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies and hopefully this is one of many instances where they will be held accountable for their involvement in today's drug overdose crisis. 

View the full Network Digest from May 2019.

April 2019

Want to Reduce Opioid Deaths? Get People the Medications They Need
(The New York Times)

This editorial compiles a variety of statistics and examples of responses when faced with pushback to MAT, but is also very effective in telling the story of the current climate around opioids. It ends with a final call to action: "Public health forecasts indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic might claim another 500,000 lives in the next decade. Many of those deaths could be avoided — if existing technologies would just be put to use."

View the full Network Digest from April 2019.

March 2019

Doctors Are Writing Half as Many New Opioid Prescriptions as They Used To, Study Says

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that new prescriptions for opioids dropped by about half from 2012 to 2017. However, physicians who continued to prescribe opioids were more likely to prescribe them for longer periods and at higher doses than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines currently recommend for first-time users.

View the full Network Digest from March 2019

February 2019

We strongly recommend that you read and share this article that supports the type of low-threshold, easy access MAT that we are aiming to promote in the California MAT expansion model. It includes evidence behind home inductions, not requiring counseling for all patients, and use of buprenorphine for other substance use disorders.

"When we shift our focus to providing individualized care that incorporates patient-centered outcomes, we can better help our patients with OUD achieve remission and lead improved lives." Click to read more.
View the full Network Digest from February 2019.

January 2019

Despite an opioid crisis, most ERs don’t offer addiction treatment. California is changing that. 

(VOX, January 8, 2019) 

California is at the forefront of integrating addiction treatment into all points of care. According to Dr. Kelly Pfeifer from the California Health Care Foundation, “We’re trying to use the money and attention to the opioid epidemic to support our efforts to build a robust addiction treatment structure that is integrated with our health care system so that any person with addiction can get the care they need.” The Public Health Institute's Bridge Program is gearing up to award more than $8 million to as many as 30 hospitals in the coming weeks. Read the full article here.




The New York Times spent months interviewing addiction experts, individuals who developed addictions to opioids, and their families in an effort to answer two questions: Why do people use these drugs? And why is it so hard for them to stop? Take a look at the visual journey they created to convey the experience of addiction, from the lure of the first high, the agony of withdrawal, and the difficult work of recovery.



View the full Network Digest from January 2019.

December 2018

Study: Dental painkillers may put young people at risk of opioid addiction
(The Washington Post, December 3, 2018)
Dentists who prescribe opioid painkillers to teenagers and young adults after pulling their wisdom teeth may be putting their patients at risk of addiction, a new study finds. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine Monday, shines a light on the largely overlooked role dental prescriptions play in an epidemic of addiction that has swept the United States, leading to a record 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017.

View the full Network Digest from December 2018

November 2018

In early October, Congress passed bipartisan opioid legislation, which authorized more than $3.3 billion in spending over 10 years. On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed the bill into law. The legislation consists of over 70 bills by Republicans and Democrats, and aims to increase access to effective treatment within Medicaid and Medicare, expand alternative pain management options, reduce over-prescribing, and more. See here for a summary of the bills by the California Health Care Foundation.

View the full Network Digest from November 2018.

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