opioid abuse

There's no doubt that opioids have been massively overprescribed in U.S. In the haste to address the epidemic, there's been pressure on doctors to reduce prescriptions of these drugs — and in fact prescriptions are declining. But along the way, some chronic pain patients have been forced to rapidly taper or discontinue the drugs altogether.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a new message for doctors: Abrupt changes to a patient's opioid prescription could harm them.

A Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence on Wednesday for illegally prescribing more than half a million doses of oxycodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl and other opioids to patients for years.

Authorities say Dr. Joel Smithers operated a "pill mill" out of Martinsville, Va., located about 15 miles north of the Virginia-North Carolina border and about 175 miles southwest of Richmond.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a tentative deal Wednesday with about half the states and thousands of local governments over its role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic, but criticism by several state attorneys general clouded prospects for an end to litigation against the company and the family that owns it.

The next generation of doctors will start their careers at a time when physicians are feeling pressure to limit prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Yet every day, they'll face patients who are hurting from injuries, surgical procedures or disease. Around 20% of adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain.

Nearly 2,000 cities, towns and counties across America are currently participating in a massive multidistrict civil lawsuit against the opioid industry for damages related to the abuse of prescription pain medication. The defendants in the suit include drug manufacturers like Mallinckrodt, wholesale distributors McKesson and Cardinal Health, and pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens.

Florida Nurse Anesthetists Back Law on Opioid Abuse

Aug 13, 2019
Prescription drugs on a shelf
Daylina Miller/WUSF

Florida nurse anesthetists have come out in strong support of a new law meant to curb opioid abuse and slammed doctors for “questioning” the logistics of how to inform patients about opioid alternatives. 

Top officials from 13 states are joining Philadelphia in urging a federal court to allow a site to open where people can inject illegal opioids under medical supervision, the latest escalation in a legal battle with the Justice Department that may determine whether such facilities, known as supervised injection sites, can start to operate in America.

As the cost of prescription medication soars, consumers are increasingly taking generic drugs: low-cost alternatives to brand-name medicines. Often health insurance plans require patients to switch to generics as a way of controlling costs. But journalist Katherine Eban warns that some of these medications might not be as safe, or effective, as we think.

Opioid Alternative Education Bill Ready For Governor

May 1, 2019
Pharmacy Technician amongst two shelves of prescription pills.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

The Florida Department of Health will be required to develop and distribute an educational pamphlet regarding the use of non-opioid alternatives to treat pain, under a bill that received final approval from the Florida Legislature on Tuesday. 

Yu-Jung Wei, an assistant professor in the UF College of Pharmacy, led a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that questions the accuracy of CMS’ criteria for flagging patients at risk of opioid abuse and overdose.
Courtesy of the University of Florida

A new study by University of Florida researchers questions the accuracy of the criteria used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to identify patients at risk of opioid abuse and overdose. 

Legislation aiming to expand Miami-Dade’s successful needle exchange program to other counties is advancing through the Senate. The three-year-old program has even changed some doubters’ minds.


About one in four Florida health care providers failed to take a two-hour continuing education course on proper opioid prescribing by the required Jan. 31 deadline, according to state officials.


Bills filed in the Florida House and Senate could give patients more control over how they're treated for pain.

County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing

Jan 22, 2019
Pharmacy Technician amongst two shelves of prescription pills.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

Researchers sketched a vivid line Friday linking the dollars spent by drugmakers to woo doctors around the country to a vast opioid epidemic that has led to tens of thousands of deaths.

DeSantis Panel Delves Into Substance-Abuse Funding

Jan 3, 2019
Peter Haden/WLRN

Incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis bemoaned Medicaid costs while in Congress and while on the campaign trail, but he is being asked by some members of his health-care advisory committee to consider expanding Medicaid eligibility to people with substance-use disorders.

Flickr (Creative Commons)

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma will chair a new statewide working group on opioid addiction.

A retired Boynton Beach paramedic is on a mission to save as many opioid overdose victims as he can.

Months in prison didn't rid Daryl of his addiction to opioids. "Before I left the parking lot of the prison, I was shooting up, getting high," he says.

Daryl has used heroin and prescription painkillers for more than a decade. Almost four years ago he became one of more than 200 people who tested positive for HIV in a historic outbreak in Scott County, Ind. After that diagnosis, he says, he went on a bender.

Pharmacy Technician amongst two shelves of prescription pills.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

The federal government is changing rules about how it helps with treatment for substance-abuse disorders, including requiring screening new Medicare beneficiaries for opioid abuse.

Use Of Drug Database Increases Amid Opioid Fight

Sep 21, 2018
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One of Florida’s main weapons to thwart “doctor shopping” has been expanding substantially after the passage of a tough new law aimed at addressing the continuing opioid crisis.

Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

Learning disabilities and other special education needs are common in children born with opioid-related symptoms from their mother's drug use while pregnant, according to the first big U.S. study to examine potential long-term problems in these infants.

It started with a rolled ankle during a routine training exercise.

Shannon Hubbard never imagined it was the prologue to one of the most debilitating pain conditions known to exist, called ­­­­­­­complex regional pain syndrome.

It's a condition that causes the nervous system to go haywire, creating pain disproportionate to the actual injury. It can also affect how the body regulates temperature and blood flow.

For most of her childhood, growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, Kelly Zimmerman felt alone and anxious.

She despaired when her mother was depressed or working late shifts; when her parents fought nonstop; when her friends wanted to come over, and she felt too ashamed to let them see her home's buckling floor, the lack of running water.

Kelly tried to shut out those feelings, and when she was 18, a boyfriend offered her an opioid painkiller — Percocet.

Her anxiety dissolved, at least for a little while.

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People with addiction to opioids and their support network can get instant, anonymous help in seeking treatment. 

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An appeals court Wednesday overturned a ruling that said a state law aimed at cracking down on pain-management clinics was unconstitutional. 

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Six U.S. states on Tuesday sued the maker of the opioid OxyContin of using deceptive marketing to boost drug sales that fueled opioid overdose deaths.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is suing five major drug manufacturers, as well as drug distributors in a "comprehensive" lawsuit aimed at punishing them for the spread of opioid addiction.

Wikimedia Commons

Acupuncturists and physical therapists are waging a war --- over needles.

As a growing opioid epidemic has made patients leery of continued use of the drugs, the Florida Board of Physical Therapy has proposed a rule that would authorize certain physical therapists to treat patients with a “dry needling” technique.

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A Florida doctor has been convicted in a woman's fatal opioid overdose.

The Tallahassee Police Department will be collecting prescription drugs this Saturday as part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. 

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