The problem is that users aren’t expecting the higher strength drugs and are overdosing because of the increased potency of them. In other news on the crisis: addiction treatment, patients with chronic pain who desperately need opioids, an interview with the U.S. surgeon general, and opioid prescription practices.
Los Angeles Times: Drugs Made In Mexican ‘Superlabs’ Are More Potent Than Ever, Fueling The Addiction Epidemic
Ten years ago, the average gram of meth available in the U.S. was 39% pure. Today, it is being sold in a nearly pure state, manufactured in Mexican “superlabs” and smuggled across the border to feed an epidemic of addiction. The drug is being peddled alongside fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer that can kill a human with just a speck or two. (Davis, 11/20)
Los Angeles Times: For Opiate Addiction, Study Finds Drug-Assisted Treatment Is More Effective Than Detox
Say you’re a publicly-insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit. New research suggests you can do it the way most treatment-seeking addicts in the state do — by undergoing a medically-supervised “detoxification” that’s difficult, expensive and highly prone to failure. (Healy, 11/20)
Bloomberg: Doctors Are Cutting Off Opioids, Leaving Millions Of Patients Facing Pain And Withdrawal
Roughly 8 million Americans are on long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain, and as many as a million are taking dangerously high doses, said Michael Von Korff, a senior researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. In the Medicare program alone, 500,000 patients were on high opioid doses in 2016, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many health professionals, fearing sanctions or even the loss of their licenses following government cases against a handful of doctors, have been caught up in a broader crackdown sweeping the pharma industry. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for treating chronic pain, warning doctors to avoid prescribing high opioid doses when possible. Doctors have been heeding the message. Since peaking in 2010, prescriptions for more dangerous, higher-dose opioids dropped 41 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to a CDC analysis. (Langreth, 11/21)
NPR: U.S. Surgeon General Says Working Together Is Key To Combating Opioid Crisis
About a month ago, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. He’s spent a lot of time talking about the severity of the drug crisis. But he’s spent less time outlining the specific steps he’ll take to fight it. Today, a White House analysis declared that the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was more than half a trillion dollars. (Jochem, 11/20)
Kaiser Health News: Doctor’s Rx For A Stiff Knee: A Prescription For 90 Percocet Pills
I recently hobbled to the drugstore to pick up painkillers after minor outpatient knee surgery, only to discover that the pharmacist hadn’t yet filled the prescription. My doctor’s order of 90 generic Percocet exceeded the number my insurer would approve, he said. I left a short time later with a bottle containing a smaller number. When I got home and opened the package to take a pill, I discovered that there were 42 inside. (Andrews, 11/21)
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