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drugs

Marcie Sillman talks to biotech journalist Luke Timmerman about the pharmaceutical company Merck buying the biotech company Idenix for  over $3 billion and what that means for the future of a hepatitis C treatment. Also, they discuss the latest from the American Society Of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Heroin was once the scourge of the urban poor, but today the typical user is a young, white suburbanite, a study finds. And the path to addiction usually starts with prescription painkillers.

A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the country found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin.

Scientists have known for a long time that the water coming out of your faucet at home might contain traces of drugs prescribed to people you've never met.

Research shows no one is getting a full dose of say, Prozac, from drinking tap water. But scientists do wonder whether pharmaceuticals in water supplies may be having more subtle, long-term impacts on human health and aquatic life.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Katie Colaneri of WHYY reports.

As Heroin Booms, Recovery Clinics Struggle To Keep Up

May 2, 2014
Jamie Heidenreich rides back to Hoquiam after getting methadone treatment in Olympia, Wash. It's an hour each way.
KUOW Photo/Elizabeth Jenkins

Heroin, the drug of the 90s, is back and thriving in Washington state.

“A hot batch of heroin hits the streets, and we will know it in a couple of hours because of the overdoses,” Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said. In Washington, opiate-related deaths have doubled in the past decade.

But efforts to provide recovery services have struggled to keep up with the drugs. And for many, particularly in rural areas where distances stretch for hours, it can be tough to reach clinics.

Murray Carpenter's book, "Caffeinated."

Ross Reynolds speaks with journalist Murray Carpenter about his book, “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us."

The book takes a closer look at the common drug we take for granted on a daily basis.

Herat is one of the most graceful cities in Afghanistan. Its traditions go back to the Persian empire, with its exquisite blue and green glass, and its thriving poetry scene.

Now Herat is struggling with a darker side: drug addiction at a higher rate than almost anywhere else in the country.

In a dusty ravine on the outskirts of the city, Ahmad, a scruffy 20-year-old, is striking a match to inhale heroin.

It's a simple act he repeats throughout his day — heating a dark slab of heroin paste smeared on a bit of foil so he can smoke it.

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide whether to approve a powerful new prescription painkiller that's designed to relieve severe pain quickly, and with fewer side effects than other opioids.

While some pain experts say the medicine could provide a valuable alternative for some patients in intense pain, the drug (called Moxduo) is also prompting concern that it could exacerbate the epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and overdoses.

Young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week showed changes in the size and shape of two key brain regions, according to a new study of 20 pot smokers and 20 non-pot smokers between 18 and 25.

This is the first time recreational marijuana use has been connected to significant brain changes.

The findings, a collaboration between Northwestern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Since its founding in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous has become part of the fabric of American society. AA and the many 12-step groups it inspired have become the country's go-to solution for addiction in all of its forms. These recovery programs are mandated by drug courts, prescribed by doctors and widely praised by reformed addicts.

Flickr Photo/Kaushik Narasimhan (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with Linda Grant, CEO of Evergreen Manor, about potential funding cuts to drug treatment programs for low-income patients in Washington state. Evergreen Manor is a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Everett.

Some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies have dramatically reduced payments to health professionals for promotional speeches amid heightened public scrutiny of such spending, a ProPublica analysis shows.

Eli Lilly & Co.'s payments to speakers dropped by 55 percent, from $47.9 million in 2011 to $21.6 million in 2012.

Pfizer's speaking payments fell 62 percent over the same period, from nearly $22 million to $8.3 million.

How Needle Exchange Programs Work

Feb 26, 2014
Flickr Photo/deepfruit (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with Michael Hanrahan who oversees the needle exchange programs for the King County's Health and Human Services. Hanrahan talks about how these exchanges work and the impact the program has made in the community.

Flickr Photo/Erin DeMay (CC BY-NC-ND)

From Seattle’s South Lake Union to larger areas like Bothell, biotechnology is a ubiquitous part of the local economy. But moving a drug from research to testing, to market, to patients is an arduous undertaking.

Washington's Take On Overdose Antidote Naloxone

Feb 18, 2014
Flickr Photo/M (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with KUOW's Patricia Murphy about a pharmacy on Capitol Hill that is offering training around an opiate overdose medication called Naloxone.

Seattle police patrol cars.
Flickr Photo/Brittney Bollay

Marcie Sillman talks with Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, about the Seattle Police Department's new policy for dealing with people who have mental illnesses or drug and alcohol issues. Hobson is also a member of Seattle's Community Police Commission.

Flickr Photo/Greg McMullin (CC-BY-NC-ND)

This week the state Department of Health reported that prescription drug overdose deaths are down 27 percent since 2008. But curbing fraud and abuse of powerful opiates has come at a price for some legitimate patients who say they’re suffering unnecessary pain due to delays at pharmacies. 

Neuroscientist: 'Decriminalize All Drugs'

Jan 22, 2014
Dr. Carl Hart's book "High Price."

David Hyde speaks with Dr. Carl Hart, a professor at Columbia University, about why he thinks all drugs — including cocaine and heroin — should be decriminalized. His latest book is called "High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society."

Schools that do random drug testing say it helps students say no to illegal drugs, while critics say it's an invasion of privacy. But feeling good about school may affect students' drug use more than the threat of testing.

A survey of high school students found that the possibility that they might face drug testing didn't really discourage students from alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. But students who thought their school had a positive environment were less apt to try cigarettes and pot.

Flickr Photo/Crashworks

Marcie Sillman talks with Caleb Banta-Green, an addiction and drug expert from the University of Washington,  about heroin trends across Washington state.

Big Pharma's Marketing Strategies

Dec 18, 2013
Sugar pills in a case
Flickr Photo/pig pog s

David Hyde talks with Natalie Mizik, University of Washington marketing professor, about how successful big pharmaceuticals are at marketing their products.

If there is such a thing, the typical pot smoker in Washington is a white male, 35 or younger with some college education. And he smokes a lot more weed than anyone thought.

Flickr Photo/Linda

Marcie Sillman talks with Bruce Bagley, professor of international studies at University of Miami, about the legalization of pot in Uruguay what this means for the US war on drugs abroad.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Theresa Young, a cancer survivor, could watch the birds outside her Renton apartment for hours. It brings her peace, she says.

The birds line up, one at a time, for their turn to duck into a hole to feed from an amazingly squirrel-proof trough. 

Flickr Photo/bwats2

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been making headlines after admitting to using crack cocaine, stating that it happened "probably in one of my drunken stupors."

Flickr Photo/West Annex News (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about the week’s news out of Toronto, where police say they’ve recovered a video that shows the city’s mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack cocaine.

For drug smugglers, getting a truckload of illegal narcotics past border authorities means potentially huge profits.

San Diego Is Biggest Entry Point For Mexican Meth

Oct 9, 2013

More than 70 percent of methamphetamine illegally trafficked into the U.S. passes through U.S.-Mexico border crossings in the San Diego area. That’s despite laws in both countries designed to crack down on the drug.

Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry face a tough balancing act. Facilitating international trade and travel on the one hand. On the other, trying to stop drugs and other illegal cargo from getting into the U.S.

Drug cartels are doing big business up and down the West Coast. When you go by freeway, you’re driving a Silk Road of sorts for heroin, meth and cocaine.

This export industry is evolving. Drug experts say heroin is back on the rise, fueled in part by prescription drug abuse. And while the supply side of the business may change, the demand remains strong.

"I was in love with it from the very beginning"

Mexican drug cartels operate an illicit export business that depends on freeways that run from California and Arizona to Canada. 

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he's done waiting for answers about how the Justice Department will handle marijuana offenses in states that have legalized small amounts of the drug.

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