Tag: prescription painkiller epidemic

“Our Nation’s Single Biggest Public Health Concern”

Opioids: An American Epidemic

It’s no longer breaking news that America has a drug problem. For several years now, we’ve been in the grip of an ever-worsening opioid crisis. We’ve moved, as a country, from popping painkillers to mainlining heroin.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute has reported on this epidemic many times. Almost every news outlet, every addiction and recovery website, has reported on it. Still, when Congressional leaders call a hearing, it’s time to sit up and take note.

That’s exactly what happened recently. In late April, Congress called a hearing of seven governmental agencies to address our love for all things opioid. Representatives from the DEA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), and others stood before elected officials and made clear just how bad things have become.

current state of painkiller abuse in america

They touched on Indiana’s recent outbreak of IV painkiller abuse induced HIV. Nora Volkow, the Director of NIDA, said not only is this the fastest spreading instance of HIV in US history, but it also caught everyone by surprise (Indy Star).

Dr. Debra Houry, the Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, linked opioid abuse to how doctors prescribe these medications. She argued that something’s shifted over the last thirty or so years in how healthcare providers dispense painkillers.

During the hearings, Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy uttered a sentence I believe to be both true and terrifying. While dicusinng the impact drugs like Norco, Percocet, and OxyContin have had on our country, he declared, “This is our nation’s single biggest public health concern” (Indy Star).

Why do 50% of all women released from prison die of drug related causes?

A Handful of Possible Solutions

Despite the overwhelmingly bleak tone of these congressional hearings, hope was in no short supply. Public officials listed off numerous ways to help combat and, ultimately, to fix our country’s dependence on pain pills.

Michael Botticelli, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a man in long-term addiction recovery, offered a three-point plan for recovery. He argued for reducing the number of opioids prescribed, reducing the number of opioid induced overdoses, and increasing access to substance abuse treatment.

It’s worth noting that these ideas fit with both President Obama and Congress’ proposed 2016 drug abuse prevention budgets.

Larry Bucshon, a Congressional Representative from Indiana, offered up an idea for introducing legislation improving addiction treatment. His plans involved using evidence based treatments and strategies to move away from medication assisted therapies (Suboxone and methadone maintenance).

Another representative from Indiana, Senator Joe Donnelly, is backing legislation that mirrors Botticelli’s three-point plan. Sen. Donnelly’s bill has provisions to change how medical professionals prescribe narcotic pills, prevent overdoses via the use of Narcan, and increase public awareness of the many dangers inherent to opioid medications.

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The Bottom Line

The above suggestions and plans highlight one central fact – concerned policymakers are taking action to address America’s love affair with painkillers. Of course, there’s no such thing as an easy solution. All of these plans will take work and, perhaps more importantly, money to be successful.

Still, there are men and women out there fighting prescription drugs. There are men and women out there leading the charge in drastic pain pill reform.

Will this reform happen overnight? Not likely. Will it happen in the next year? Not likely. What is likely, though, is slowly but surely our country’s attitude towards prescription opioids will change. Slowly but surely things will get better.

That’s a change we can all get behind.

Think your child or loved one may be using heroin? Learn how to be sure today

A Controversial New “Abuse-Proof” Painkiller

The FDA Approved WHAT?

In a bold and possibly rash move, the FDA approved a new “abuse-proof” form of a powerful opioid.

hysingla opioid painkiller

On November 20th, the FDA gave the green light to Hysingla ER, an extended release version of the popular opioid hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is the chemical name of the blockbuster drug Vicodin.

Okay, so the government approved a hard to abuse painkiller. What’s wrong with that? If anything, we should be singing Hysingla’s praises. I’m not so sure. A closer look into Hysingla and its development reveals a troubling history.

Learn the staggering effect of Vicodin on society

Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Hysingla is the latest form of extended release hydrocodone. Following Vicodin’s huge spike in popularity (it’s currently the most prescribed and abused painkiller in the U.S.), it became clear something had to be done.

Vicodin exposes its legitimate and recreational users to a host of negative side effects. These include liver damage, due to acetaminophen, and addiction. So, drug companies began working on a pure form of hydrocodone that was also “abuse-proof.”

Fast-forward to 2013. The FDA, despite numerous doubts about its safety, approved Zohydro ER. Legislators, police officers, addiction professional, and even the FDA’s own advisory board claimed Zohydro presented a danger to users due to its high levels of hydrocodone (the highest strength contains fifty milligrams of the opioid).

Once Zohydro hit the market, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency. It was reactions like these that prompted the pharmaceutical company Perdue to develop Hysingla.

Not everyone is so sure this new drug is safe, though. Jane Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote the following

“Prescription opioids with abuse-deterrent properties will not completely fix the prescription opioid abuse problem, but they can be part of a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic.”

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How is Hysingla “Abuse-Proof?”

No matter what side of the Hysingla debate you’re on, we can all celebrate a drug that’s difficult for addicts to abuse. Surely we can all agree on that, right?

Well, it turns out Hysingla isn’t actually that abuse-proof. In fact, Hysingla is difficult to crush. That’s it. It doesn’t turn to gel when mixed with water. It isn’t impossible to inject. It’s simply difficult to crush.

Hysingla may need some better abuse-deterrent methods. Otherwise it’s destined to join the ranks of the many other “abuse-proof” drugs which aren’t too hard to abuse.

Is there an end in sight for prescription pill overdoses?

”Abuse-Proof” Pills Aren’t Abuse-Proof

Since the mid-2000’s there’s been a push to develop abuse-proof alternatives to popular opioid drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, and you guessed it, Vicodin.

abuse proof opioids

These pills were simply too popular with addicts. People were overdosing left and right. A painkiller epidemic was born.

So, Perdue and other pharmaceutical companies began to develop “abuse-proof” forms of many opioids. The only drawback, though, was that these abuse-deterrent pills were still abusable.

OxyContin formulas started to turn to gel when mixed with water. Enterprising addicts figured out a way to extract the drug from the gel. Roxicodone pills were supposedly “un-crushable.” Once again, enterprising addicts learned how to crush them.

Not to mention, as a specific pill became harder to abuse, addicts would simply switch to one that wasn’t so hard. This is why, by the mid and late 2000’s, we saw people switching from oxy to Dilaudid.

This presents a powerful lesion. As long as opioid drugs are available, people will figure out ways to abuse them. It doesn’t matter if they’re “abuse-proof” or not.

So, what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t an easy answer. Knowledge of the destructive effects of addiction helps. Shifting the focus of addiction from a moral failing to a medical condition helps. Increased access to substance abuse treatment helps.

Now put all those things together and we can hope to see a real solution to American’s painkiller epidemic.

He went from pills to heroin and homelessness. Read the recovery story of Jesse Schenker, world famous chef!

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