opioid crisis

Several proposals to combat the opioid epidemic are circulating through the Florida House and Senate.

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

As the opioid epidemic swells the tide of abused and neglected children coming into the state foster-care system, a Florida judge is trying to find them a "forever" home, in time for the holidays.

More than fifty people gathered at the Leon County Public Library Monday evening to talk about combating the opioid crisis.  The epidemic hasn’t hit Leon as hard as some other counties, but local leaders want to be ready.

About a month ago, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. He's spent a lot of time talking about the severity of the drug crisis. But he's spent less time outlining the specific steps he'll take to fight it. Today, a White House analysis declared that the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was more than half a trillion dollars.

The latest figures from Florida’s medical examiners show sharp increases in drug related deaths.  Across all substances, 22 percent more Floridians lost their lives in 2016. 

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory this week regarding the use of Kratom - an herb that some people use to treat pain, stress, anxiety, and even opioid withdrawal.

Jacksonville has the highest rate of fentanyl-related deaths in the state, according to an annual Florida Department of Law Enforcement report.

Addiction specialists caution against reading too much into a new study released this week that compares two popular medications for opioid addiction. This much-anticipated research is the largest study so far to directly compare the widely used treatment Suboxone with relative newcomer Vivitrol.

Researchers who compared the two drugs found them equally effective once treatment started. But there are fundamental differences in the way treatment begins, which makes these findings difficult to interpret.

Florida’s medical examiners are warning the death toll from opioids is likely to spike as official data is released.  The most recent reporting doesn’t reflect the impact of some of the deadliest synthetic drugs.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Donald Trump has declared a nationwide public health emergency for the opioid crisis.  But the immediate impact in Florida will be minimal.

The same week President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency; officials in Jacksonville are readying a lawsuit against companies who manufacture the drug.

Defeating one opioid overdose, one nasal spray at a time. That’s how the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) is going about the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Sheriff deputies in Broward have been armed with overdose reversal nasal sprays since June, but the Florida Sheriffs Association just gave BSO a big boost by shipping 1,200 units of the medication this week so more deputies are able to carry it on them every day. 

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

President Trump declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic Thursday, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said, adding, "it's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said.

The state senator leading the charge on opioid abuse in Florida is leaning heavily on prescription limits in a new YouTube video.  Her measure caps most prescriptions at a three day supply.

There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the place where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court.

But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet.

"This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her.

"Good to see you," Stein says, smiling.

"We've got to do that after picture. We did the before," Judge Hannah reminds her.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is promising to make the opioid crisis a top priority in the coming legislative session.

Driving down the main commercial artery in Muncie, Ind., it seems the job market is doing well. The local unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent, and there are hiring signs posted outside the McDonald's, a pizza joint and at stop lights.

Around 2007 — the last time the market was so tight — job applicants came streaming through the offices of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency that screens and places about 120 workers a month, mostly at the local manufacturing firms.

Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than car accidents or gun violence.

Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day and, to mark the occasion, advocates and officials from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties will gather on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton to call for greater federal action to end the United States’s epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.

Rallies will be held in cities around the country.

Maureen Kielian is a parent advocate from Fort Lauderdale who helped organize the event.

Each year, more than 300 patients with chronic pain take part in a three-week program at the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Their complaints range widely, from specific problems such as intractable lower-back pain to systemic issues such as fibromyalgia. By the time patients enroll, many have tried just about everything to get their chronic pain under control. Half are taking opioids.

A year ago, Maine was one of the first states to set limits on opioid prescriptions. The goal in capping the dose of prescription painkillers a patient could get was to stem the flow of opioids that are fueling a nationwide epidemic of abuse.

Maine's law, considered the toughest in the U.S., is largely viewed as a success. But it has also been controversial — particularly among chronic pain patients who are reluctant to lose the medicine they say helps them function.

This week South Carolina decided to sue the maker OxyContin for deceptive marketing.

Widespread incidents of fraud have given the South Florida addiction treatment industry a black eye. Law enforcement has been cracking down — with strong support from the treatment industry’s legitimate providers.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Update 3:35 pm August 10: Two days after making a few general remarks about the opioid crisis, President Trump on Thursday called it "a national emergency" and said his administration would be drawing up papers to make it official.

"We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis," Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

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

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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."

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is wrapping up his tenure as president of the National Association of Counties with a plea for more federal help to fight the opioid crisis.

States across the country are struggling to hold off a rising tide of opioid abuse and Florida is no exception.  But the return of harsh penalties for possession—a hallmark of the war on drugs—is frustrating a broad spectrum of advocates and officials.

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