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A Superbug That Resisted 26 Antibiotics

Jan 17, 2017

"People keep asking me, how close are we to going off the cliff," says Dr. James Johnson, professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota. The cliffside free fall he is talking about is the day that drug-resistant bacteria will be able to outfox the world's entire arsenal of antibiotics. Common infections would then become untreatable.

Before Luke Whitbeck began taking a $300,000-a-year drug, the 2-year-old's health was inexplicably failing.

A pale boy with enormous eyes, Luke frequently ran high fevers, tired easily and was skinny all over, except his belly stuck out like a bowling ball.

"What does your medicine do for you?" Luke's mother, Meg, asked after his weekly drug treatment recently.

When people turn in their used needles at the Needle Exchange, they get fresh supplies to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Seattle police officers are warning heroin users about dangerous purity levels after four people overdosed on Saturday. Three of the overdoses were fatal.

The Seattle Police Department believes the victims may have bought heroin from the same person. All overdoses occurred within hours of each other and in a similar geographic area.

Policing and homeless services are high profile items in Seattle's proposed budget. A program that helps drug users touches on both. Now, the fate of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program is stirring up debate.

Through LEAD, police connect low level drug and prostitution suspects to community services, instead of arresting them.

The scariest thing about heroin? 'You're gonna love it'

Oct 19, 2016
Alyssa started using heroin when she was 14. She’s now 20 and works as a daycare teacher.
Flickr photo / B.A.D. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradadozier/

When she was 10 years old, Alyssa found the spot where her parents hid the alcohol. The moment it touched her lips, she was addicted to that escape. (Her last name is being withheld to protect her privacy).


Kratom Gets Reprieve From Drug Enforcement Administration

Oct 12, 2016

It's been a wild ride for kratom lately.

America has a long and storied history with marijuana. Once grown by American colonists to make hemp rope, by 1970, it was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Possession of it was — and is — a federal crime, despite the fact that in recent years 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Two often-overlooked medications might help millions of Americans who abuse alcohol to quit drinking or cut back.

Public health officials, building on a push to treat people who abuse opioids with medications, want physicians to consider using medications to treat alcohol addiction. The drugs can be used in addition to or sometimes in place of peer-support programs, they say.

Many people struggling with opioid addiction can't find a doctor to provide medication-assisted treatment, even though it's highly effective. One reason could be that doctors who are qualified to prescribe the medication typically treat just a handful of patients.

Shilo Murphy holds drug paraphernalia that his needle exchange supplies to users on an alley off the Ave.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Kim Malcolm talks with Caleb Banta-Green, an opiate addiction expert and a member of the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Taskforce, about Seattle possibly becoming the first U.S. city to create a safe-consumption site for heroin users.


Registered nurse Sammy Mullally holds a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday May 11, 2011.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck

Now that a task force to address King County’s heroin epidemic has unveiled its recommendations, the hard work begins. 

Some of the strategies in the report are already in motion, like making naloxone, a drug that prevents overdoses, readily available.

Kratom is made from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia that is a relative of the coffee plant. According to David Kroll, a pharmacologist and medical writer, farmers and indigenous people have used it for hundreds of years as both a stimulant to increase work output and also at the end of the day as a way to relax.

The leaves are often brewed like a tea, or crushed and mixed with water. In the U.S., kratom has become popular among people coping with chronic pain and others trying to wean themselves off opioids or alcohol.

Karisa Rowland is one of them.

A task force to address King County’s heroin epidemic will release recommendations this week that could include a safe consumption site for people who use drugs.

The group will make another recommendation: creating a buprenorphine program at the site of Seattle’s Needle Exchange program.

Treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions is about to get a little cheaper.

Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, said Monday that it will launch a generic version of the device for half the price of the brand-name product.

Federal data suggest illegally manufactured fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, is behind an increase in synthetic opioid deaths.

Editor's note: Updated at 9:20 am ET to include Mylan's announcement that it will reimburse consumers for some of their out-of-pocket costs.

EpiPens are in your friend's purse and your kid's backpack. The school nurse has a few, as does Grandma.

The medicine inside — epinephrine — has been around forever, and the handy gadget that injects it into your leg is not particularly new either.

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

The state hospital association has teamed up with a toxicology company to address one gateway to opioid addiction. 

People prescribed pain medication sometimes don’t use all of it. And those drugs can get into the wrong hands. Washington residents may  have another way of getting rid of their unused prescription drugs. 

U.S. swimmer Wendy Boglioli dives in to the pool to begin the second heat in the women's 100 meter butterfly competition at the Olympic pool in Montreal, Canada, July 21, 1976.
AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

At the summer Olympics, 19-year-old American swimmer Lilly King is making headlines – and not just for winning gold.

After beating Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, King openly condemned the Russian swim team for doping.

Heroin needle
Flickr Photo/William Fahrnbach (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/qNv4vL

Emily Fox talks with Molly Carney, executive director of Evergreen Treatment Services, about a new opioid treatment clinic opening this week in Renton.

In a big hotel conference room near New York's Times Square, six doctors huddle around a greasy piece of raw pork. They watch as addiction medicine specialist Michael Frost delicately marks the meat, incises it and implants four match-sized rods.

"If you can do it well on the pork, you can easily do it on the person," Frost tells his audience.

More than 60 track and field athletes from Russia have had their bid for an appeal rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, dealing another blow to their hopes of participating in the Summer Olympics in Rio next month.

The CAS decision comes weeks after the International Olympic Committee backed a ban on Russia's track and field athletes who were seeking the right to compete in Rio as neutral athletes, after their country's sporting federation for track was suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Caleb Banta-Green is a UW professor and a member of the King County heroin and prescription opiate task force.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington professor Caleb Banta-Green about a report on 2015 drug trends in King County. It finds heroin overdoses have declined from 2014. Banta-Green is a senior research scientist at the UW's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.

Ashley Hempelmann says a safe space to use drugs could've helped her.
KUOW Photo/Kim Malcolm

Kim Malcolm talks with Patricia Sully, coordinator for VOCAL-WA, about why she's advocating for supervised consumption sites for drug users in King County. She says that drug consumption is already happening in your backyard and that these sites aren't meant to encourage drug use, but support people along a continuum of care. 

The International Olympic Committee held an emergency meeting Tuesday but put off a final decision on whether to ban all Russian athletes from the Summer Games that begin in Brazil on Aug. 5.

Though the games are less than three weeks away, the IOC said it would "explore the legal options" and would weigh a collective ban "versus the right to individual justice."

Jevon Lawson wore a diamond pendant with pale green gems mimicing the OxyContin trail from Los Angeles to Washington state.
(US Marshals Service)

Emily Fox talks with Los Angeles Times reporter Harriet Ryan about how an illegal OxyContin ring in Southern California helped spark an opioid epidemic in Snohomish County.

Naloxone Syringe
Flickr Photo/VCU CNS (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/r3Msnd

Heroin addiction has no boundaries. Deaths from overdoses have gone up across Washington state, but in Snohomish County, the rates have gone up more than in King or Pierce Counties.

R
Mauricio Fidalgo/Reuters

Residents of Rio de Janeiro’s Maré complex of poor favela neighborhoods were too terrified to walk down the street.

Nighttime police raids and daytime shootouts between police and a drug gang last week killed three civilians, wounded two officers and kept people shut inside a classroom for hours while bullets whizzed outside.

Eric Seitz used to be homeless, he's now a nurse working to help homeless people in Seattle
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Bill Radke speaks with Eric Seitz about how he turned his life around. Seitz used to be homeless and addicted to drugs. He's now a nurse, he's housed and he tries to help other people in Seattle experiencing homelessness.

Prescription drug prices continue to climb, putting the pinch on consumers. Some older Americans appear to be seeking an alternative to mainstream medicines that has become easier to get legally in many parts of the country. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

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