opioid addiction

Wikimedia Commons

The federal government is giving the state $3 million for drug court programs in the wake of an opioid epidemic.

The deadline is approaching for Florida’s governor to sign off on a bill aimed at tracking the use of addictive prescription drugs. Some medical professionals see the measure as key to fighting the opioid epidemic.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Accidental opioid overdoses by first responders are an alarming phenomenon.

COURTESY OF NICODEMO FIORENTINO

Of the three medications that treat opioid addiction, one got more attention in the Florida Legislature this year.

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."

Republicans in both the House and the Senate are considering big cuts to Medicaid. But those cuts endanger addiction treatment, which many people receive through the government health insurance program.

For years, people with addiction have wondered when the media would recognize our condition as a medical problem, not a moral one — when they would stop reducing us to mere "addicts" and speak of us in the more respectful and accurate "person first" language that has become common for people with other diseases and disorders.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Florida service providers are wasting no time taking advantage of nearly $30 million in federal money for addressing the opioid epidemic.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a public health emergency across Florida for the opioid epidemic.

Julio Ochoa/WUSF

More money is needed to stop overdose deaths, Manatee County leaders told state officials during an opioid workshop Tuesday.

Nearly 1.5 million Americans were treated for addiction to prescription opioids or heroin in 2015, according to federal estimates, and when those people get seriously hurt or need surgery, it's often not clear, even to many doctors, how to safely manage their pain. For some former addicts, what begins as pain relief ends in tragedy.

Surviving Opioids In The Fentanyl Era Is Tough

Apr 7, 2017
Robin Lubbock / WBUR

There’s a clear culprit in the rising drug overdose death count in Massachusetts — the synthetic opioid fentanyl. More powerful and more deadly than heroin, fentanyl has sparked a new set of survival rules among people who abuse opioids.

As the toll of the opioid epidemic grows, scores of doctors have lost their licenses and some have gone to prison. Pharmacies are being sued and shuttered. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are under investigation and face new rules from regulators.

But penalties against companies that serve as middlemen between drug companies and pharmacies have been relatively scarce — until recently.

President Barack Obama is proclaiming it’s “Prescription Opioid and Heroin-Epidemic Awareness Week.”

As more people become addicted, he’s also asking Congress to pass $1.1 billion in new treatment funding.

But getting connected to treatment can be as difficult for struggling addicts as deciding to seek help in the first place.

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.

Doctor’s Conviction Upheld In Pill Mill Case

Aug 4, 2016

A state appeals court Wednesday rejected the arguments of a Broward County doctor who was convicted on charges including racketeering and trafficking in oxycodone after an undercover investigation of a pill mill.

Zac Talbott sees the irony of running an opioid treatment program from a former doctor's office.

"The funny thing is, a lot of patients are like, 'This is where I first started getting prescribed pain pills,' " Talbott says.

Now, the Tennessee native says those same patients are coming to his clinic in Chatsworth, Ga., a small city about a half-hour south of the Tennessee border, to fight their addiction to those very pills.