Welcome to this month’s edition of Comp Medical News. Functional heroin addicts, kratom, and new SAMHSA guidelines are your headlines for February 2018.
Drug Companies Shipped 21 Million Painkillers to a Town of 2,900 People
A report from the Charleston Gazette-Mail found that between 2006 and 2016, out-of-state drug companies shipped nearly 21 million opioid painkillers to two pharmacies in Williamson, West Virginia, population 2,900. That report cites a new congressional investigation into massive shipments of the opioid painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone in West Virginia by drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith. West Virginia and many Southern states, including Louisiana, were host to pill mills and high rates of opioid abuse compared to the rest of the nation because of these practices
Read more from Vox here.
FDA Warns Against Adverse Effects of Kratom, a Drug Used Often as an Opioid Alternative
The FDA, which has issued several warnings about kratom, a plant-based substance used both as a stimulant and as a opioid alternative. The release says that the FDA recognizes “that there is still much that is unknown about kratom” which is why the agency says it has “taken some significant steps to advance the scientific understanding of this product and how it works in the body.” The announcement contains details of some of the important scientific tools, data and research that have contributed to the FDA’s concerns about kratom’s potential for abuse, addiction, and serious health consequences; including death.
Read more from FDA here.
CNN Investigates the Lives of Functioning Heroin Addicts
The general understanding of heroin addicts is that of end-stage addiction – people nodding off in alleys, close to death. However, many addicts are living lives that appear typical from the outside. CNN interviewed four current heroin users that manage to function despite their heroin use. Some started with pills and turned to heroin as a cheaper, more accessible alternative, others use heroin as a maladaptive way to cope with past trauma.
Read their stories here.
SAMHSA Issues Guidance on Medication-Assisted Therapy for Opioid Addiction
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued new guidance to health care and addiction professionals on medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder. Stemming from a mandate by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, the guidance offers education on appropriate prescribing practices for methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine, as well as strategies for supporting and educating patients and their families.
Read more from Pain Medicine News here.
DEA Loosens Physician Requirements to Prescribe Buprenorphine
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration announced late last month a deregulatory measure that will make it easier for residents of underserved areas to receive treatment for opioid addiction. As published in the Federal Register, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can now become DATA-Waived qualifying practitioners, which gives them authority to prescribe and dispense the opioid maintenance drug buprenorphine from their offices. Prior to the enactment of the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000, only physicians could treat opioid addicts and had to register with DEA as both physicians and operators of Narcotic Treatment Programs. Waiving this second registration prompted more physicians to offer treatment services.
Read more here.
Vox: The Opioid Epidemic Could be Behind America’s Murder Spike
America’s murder rate has ticked up since 2015. Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri in St. Louis, a leading criminal justice expert, says that a recent shift in the opioid crisis may be the cause. According to Vox’s conversation with Rosenfeld:
“Until 2015, the biggest cause of drug overdose deaths was prescribed painkillers. Recently, however, the opioid epidemic began to shift toward illicit drugs. Starting around 2011, opioid painkiller overdose deaths began to level off, and heroin overdose deaths began to increase […] It’s this transition to the illicit market that Rosenfeld says may have helped cause a rise in murders: Since illegal drug markets tend to be much more violent than legal drug markets, the greater use of illicit opioids came with more violence.”
Read more here.
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