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drugs

The first time Ray Tamasi got hit up by an investor, it was kind of out of the blue.

"This guy called me up," says Tamasi, president of Gosnold on Cape Cod, an addiction treatment center with seven sites in Massachusetts.

"The guy" represented a group of investors; Tamasi declines to say whom. But they were looking to buy addiction treatment centers like Gosnold.

Zunika Crenshaw cringes as a tire swing whips her children around in circles just a little too fast. It's a sunny afternoon in the park, in Pleasanton, Calif. As her children play, she keeps a close watch on their breathing.

She says asthma is in her genes.

"You have a family, a person who has four kids, and all of them have it, including me," she says. "And then my mom has it, and my sister's two kids."

A little girl, 3-year-old Jhase, runs over to her, wheezing. Crenshaw grabs an inhaler, and her daughter breathes deeply from it.

FLICKR PHOTO/M (CC BY-NC-ND)

Seattle-area public health officials are warning cocaine users about two recent deaths believed to have been caused by a tainted batch of cocaine.


Kevin Boggs is a patient at one of three methadone clinics in Seattle. He moved into the Jungle last winter, which makes it easier to show up for his daily treatment.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Kevin Boggs moved to Seattle to pursue his glass blowing dreams, but today he stands in line at a methadone clinic.


(This post was last updated at 4:20 p.m. ET.)

The iconoclast musician Prince died of a drug overdose, the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Ramsey, Minn., has found.

In a report released publicly on Thursday, the medical examiner said Prince Rogers Nelson self-administered a deadly dose of the synthetic opiate fentanyl by accident.

Dr. James Gill walked through the morgue in Farmington, Conn., recently, past the dock where the bodies come in, past the tissue donations area, and stopped outside the autopsy room.

"We kind of have a typical board listing all of the decedents for the day," Gill said, pointing to the list of names on a dry-erase board. "Overdose, overdose, overdose, overdose, overdose. That's just for today."

Kim Malcolm speaks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about Fentanyl, an opiate claiming lives in British Columbia. Overdoses from this drug are on the rise and health officials are trying to educate the public. 

Scientists and doctors say the case is clear: The best way to tackle the country's opioid epidemic is to get more people on medications that have been proven in studies to reduce relapses and, ultimately, overdoses.

Yet, only a fraction of the more than 4 million people believed to abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the U.S. are being given what's called medication-assisted treatment.

Courtney Griffin was addicted to heroin and ready to get help. She packed up her things, and her mom drove her to a residential treatment facility about an hour from their home in New Hampshire. There was a bed waiting for her.

Two days after drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán was transferred to a prison near Juárez, a Mexican city near the U.S. border, a federal judge in Mexico said the extradition process can move forward.

An unnamed judge said the "legal requirements laid out in the extradition treaty" between the U.S. and Mexico had been met, The Associated Press reports, adding that Mexico's foreign ministry has 20 days to approve the extradition.

At a recent gathering, supporters of a safe site for drug users tied a ribbon to remember people who've been personally affected by substance abuse.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

It’s been more than a month since a task force was formed to address King County’s heroin epidemic.

One solution that’s under discussion is creating a safe site for people to use drugs under medical supervision. The idea is unconventional and controversial, but supporters like Patricia Sully say previous approaches haven’t worked.  

At one time, Thea Oliphant-Wells was a client at the needle exchange program. Today, she's a social worker connecting people to services they need to find their way out of addiction.  `
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Heroin deaths have reached a record number in King County. More than 150 people died of overdoses in 2014.

One woman could’ve been part of that statistic. Ten years ago, Thea Oliphant-Wells was homeless and addicted to heroin. 

Some users of LSD say one of the most profound parts of the experience is a deep oneness with the universe. The hallucinogenic drug might be causing this by blurring boundaries in the brain, too.

'Week in Review" panel Paul Guppy, Bill Radke, Maud Daudon and Sydney Brownstone.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Advertising is coming to an outdoors near you, can commercialism save our state parks? Also, should Seattle give heroin users a safe place to inject? And, should we give over a Sodo street for a basketball arena?

Bill Radke runs the the fast break with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone, Washington Policy Center’s Paul Guppy and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon.

Oxycodone pills.
Flickr Photo/Be.Futureproof (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/4xcHp9

Seattle leaders want the city to have more disposal sites for drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.

The City Council passed a resolution Monday that asks pharmacies and the Seattle Police Department to install drug disposal boxes.

Oregon’s water is tested for suspended solids, certain chemicals and heavy metals — but not for pharmaceuticals.

With prescription drug use on the rise unused meds too often end up in the landfill or flushed down the toilet. In Oregon, Lane County agencies are stepping up their message of what to do with unwanted drugs.

Sarah Grimm, the waste reduction specialist for Lane County Public Works, said she's seeing a problem in her industry: pharmaceutical meds being flushed down the toilet.

How do you fix a problem if you don't know its size?

Many states — including some that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis — don't know how many of their youngest residents each year are born physically dependent on those drugs. They rely on estimates.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. Ted Dallas, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, calls the information he's working with "reasonably good."

Opioids are becoming the latest serious addiction problem in this country. Among these drugs manufactured from opium, heroin is the most serious, dangerous, cheap and available everywhere.

In April's edition of Harper's Magazine, Dan Baum has examined a new response to this latest addiction problem: the legalization of drugs.

Carolyn Rossi has been a registered nurse for 27 years, and she's been fiercely protective of infants in her intensive care unit — babies born too soon, babies born with physical and cognitive abnormalities and, increasingly, babies born dependent on opioids.

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

Bike cops in Seattle are now armed with a tool that could save people from dying of a heroin overdose. Officers in three areas of the city will carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

Seattle Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb said officers respond to about 100 overdoses a month. He said bike cops are well positioned to get to the calls quickly.

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

Federal health authorities say there’s an opioid epidemic across the country, and Washington is not immune.

In the Northwest, far more people die from drug overdoses than car crashes, according to Susan Johnson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The epidemic of opioid abuse that's swept the U.S. has left virtually no community unscathed, from big cities to tiny towns.

In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in this country: more than gun deaths; more than car crashes.

A Boston nonprofit plans to soon test a new way of addressing the city's heroin epidemic. The idea is simple. Along a stretch of road that has come to be called Boston's "Methadone Mile," the program will open a room in March with a nurse, some soft chairs and basic life-saving equipment — a place where heroin users can ride out their high, under medical supervision.

Ricky Garcia and Lauren Davis are fighting to pass Ricky's Law in the Washington State Legislature that would allow involuntary committment for addicts.
Courtesy of Lauren Davis

What can you do if someone you love wants to hurt themselves? If the underlying cause is mental illness, one option is to have them involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment.

But, if the underlying cause is addiction, things get much harder.

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

Bill Radke speaks with Caleb Banta-Green about a state-wide survey of needle exchange programs and the drug users they serve in Washington. Banta-Green is with the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Addiction Institute. 

As the drug-related death toll rises in the United States, communities are trying to open more treatment beds. But an ongoing labor shortage among drug treatment staff is slowing those efforts.

Screenshot from Frontline's new documentary 'Chasing Heroin.'
YouTube

Bill Radke talks with filmmaker Marcela Gaviria about her Frontline documentary "Chasing Heroin," which focuses on the Puget Sound region. King County alone saw a spike of 58 percent in fatal heroin overdoses from 2013 to 2014. Seattle's LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program aims to get addicts into drug treatment instead of jail.

A discarded hypodermic needle next to the train tracks outside the Yankee Diner on Shilshole Avenue. Neighbors have complained about drug use, waste and garbage they attribute to car campers and RVs in the neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano

Seattle is experiencing a heroin epidemic. North Seattle residents say they find proof of that epidemic in parks and on sidewalks in the form of used, discarded needles. 

Mike Cuadra is a member of the North Precinct Advisory Council, a coalition of community groups and businesses from North Seattle neighborhoods. He's seen a rise in the number of needles littering his neighborhood over the past two years. 

"It's scary. I think people are frightened and angry," Cuadra said. 

Cathy Fennelly tried to save her son from heroin addiction.

For eight years, she tried to help him get sober. She told him he couldn't come home unless he was in treatment. It tormented her, knowing that he might be sleeping on the streets, cold at night.

But nothing worked. In 2015, she found him dead from an overdose on her front step.

"No matter how many detoxes I put him in, no matter how many mental facilities; I emptied out my 401(k), I sold my jewelry," she says. "This will never get easier. Never."

For many people struggling with opioid use, a key to success in recovery is having support. Some are getting that support from an unlikely place: their health insurer.

Amanda Jean Andrade, who lives west of Boston in a halfway house for addiction recovery, has been drug- and alcohol-free since October. It's the longest she's been off such substances in a decade. She gives a lot of the credit for that to her case manager, Will — who works for her insurance company.

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