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Some NFL players took a knee or sat during the national anthem. The Seahawks stayed in their locker room. Other players stood and locked arms. What does it all matter if the fans tune them out?

Also, Facebook says it will get tougher on fake Russian campaign ads, but what is our responsibility to consume media smartly?

And Washington state sues the maker of OxyContin, but pharmaceutical companies say they don't deserve all the blame because it's doctors who over-prescribed and patients who over-used.

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

Washington state’s attorney general and the attorney for the city of Seattle have filed separate lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

Both the city and the state claim drug companies have contributed to the ongoing opioid and heroin epidemic.  

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

Bill Radke speaks with author and journalist Sam Quinones about why Washington state and the city of Seattle have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other opioid producers. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he's suing because Purdue lead a deceptive marketing campaign to promote their drugs and mislead doctors on the risk of pain killers.

Jonathan Guffey has chiseled youthful looks and, at 32, does not have the haggard bearing of someone who has spent more than half his life hooked on opioids. That stint with the drug started at 15 and ended — he says for good — 22 months ago. He has a job working with his family in construction, but his work history is pockmarked by addiction.

"I've worked in a couple of factories for a short amount of time, probably just long enough to get the first check to get high off of," Guffey says.

President Trump says he is ready to declare the nation's opioid crisis "a national emergency," saying it is a "serious problem the likes of which we have never had." Speaking to reporters at the entrance to his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where he is on a working vacation, Trump promised "to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."

In Prince George's County, Md., every first responder carries naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

"We carry it in our first-in bags," says Bryan Spies, the county's battalion chief in charge of emergency services. "So whenever we arrive at a patient's side, it's in the bag, along with things like glucose, aspirin and oxygen."

By the time Elvis Rosado was 25, he was addicted to opioids and serving time in jail for selling drugs to support his habit.

"I was like, 'I have to kick this, I have to break this,' " he says.

For Rosado, who lives in Philadelphia, drugs had become a way to disassociate from "the reality that was life." He'd wake up physically needing the drugs to function.

His decision to finally stop using propelled him into another challenging chapter of his addiction and one of the most intense physical and mental experiences he could have imagined: detoxing.

A one-paragraph letter, barely a hundred words long, unwittingly became a major contributor to today's opioid crisis, researchers say.

"This has recently been a matter of a lot of angst for me," Dr. Hershel Jick, co-author of that letter, told Morning Edition host David Greene recently. "We have published nearly 400 papers on drug safety, but never before have we had one that got into such a bizarre and unhealthy situation."

Two years ago, a mental health advocate named Steve McCaffrey stood at a lectern in the Indiana statehouse, testifying in favor of an addiction treatment bill. After years of rising overdose rates, lawmakers in the health committee were taking action to combat the opioid epidemic. And they often turned to McCaffrey, who leads Mental Health America of Indiana, to advise them.

His brief testimony appeared straightforward. "We rise in support, urge your adoption," said McCaffrey. He said the legislation would move the state "toward evidence-based treatment."

The state of Ohio has sued five major drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid epidemic. In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, state Attorney General Mike DeWine alleges these five companies "helped unleash a health care crisis that has had far-reaching financial, social, and deadly consequences in the State of Ohio."

Named in the suit are:

  • Purdue Pharma
  • Endo Health Solutions
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
  • Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals

With the approval this month of two drugs to treat hepatitis C in children, these often overlooked victims of the opioid epidemic now have a better chance at a cure. Kids may actually have an easier time than adults getting approved for the treatment, according to some health policy specialists.

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

It's official: Seattle plans to be the first city in the United States to open a site for users to inject illegal drugs – without police intervention.

Young children and teenagers are increasingly likely to be poisoned by opioid painkillers that are often prescribed for other family members, a study finds.

The rate of children hospitalized for opioid poisoning increased 165 percent from 1997 to 2012, from about 1.40 per 100,000 kids to 3.71 per 100,000.

On the final day of June 2015, Colin LePage rode waves of hope and despair. It started when LePage found his 30-year-old son, Chris, at home after an apparent overdose. Paramedics rushed Chris by helicopter to one of Boston's flagship medical centers.

Doctors revived Chris' heart, but struggled to stabilize his temperature and blood pressure. At some point, a doctor or nurse mentioned to LePage that his son had agreed to be an organ donor.

"There was no urgency or, 'Hey, you need to do this.' I could see genuine concern and sadness." LePage says, his voice quavering.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

The bill, which had previously passed the House, will now be sent to President Obama. He has indicated that he will sign it, despite concerns that it doesn't provide enough funding.

The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine.

Bridgton, Maine, is the kind of place people like to go to get away. It's got a small main street with shops and restaurants, a pair of scenic lakes, a ski resort and plenty of hiking trails.

But about 10 years ago, Bridgton, a town of just 5,000 residents, began showing signs of a serious drug problem.

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.

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."

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.

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

In the spring of 2015, something was unfolding in Austin, Ind.

This story is first in our four-part series Treating the Tiniest Opioid Patients, a collaboration produced by NPR's National & Science Desks, local member stations and Kaiser Health News.

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.

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.

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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