Short Answers to Hard Questions About the Opioid Crisis

"On Thursday, President Trump said he intended to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, as previously recommended by his opioid commission.

With the death toll from drugs rising faster than ever, you might feel that you could use a little catching up. For a quick refresher, and more on the practical effects of a formal declaration of an emergency, here are answers to 12 critical questions."



Beacon Health Options Inks Innovative Value-Based Contract with Column Health to Expand Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Massachusetts

"BOSTON – Beacon Health Options (Beacon), a national leader in behavioral health management, announced that it has signed an innovative contract with Column Health, a new technology-enabled health care company, to expand access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Massachusetts. The cornerstone of the contract is a value-based bundled payment structure that promotes high-quality treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), resulting in positive clinical outcomes and reduced administrative burdens for the provider. The bundled payment structure is based on phases of treatment for patients, which creates a continuum of care.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. MAT combines the use of behavioral therapy with medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, to treat OUD."


President Trump plans to declare national emergency in response to opioid crisis

"BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Trump said Thursday he intends to declare a state of national emergency in response to the opioid crisis, a move that would give the federal government expanded powers and additional resources to prevent and treat overdoses. 

“We’re going to make it a national emergency," Trump said from his New Jersey golf club. "It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had." 

Trump said he is "drawing documents now" to officially label the crisis as a national emergency, a formal action that would have both symbolic and legal power. The last time a president took similar action was in 2009, when President Obama declared a one-year state of national emergency to prepare for the H1N1 influenza virus.

A formal presidential declaration — when coupled with a public health emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services — would give the administration additional powers to waive health regulations, pay for treatment programs, and make overdose-reversing drugs more widely available.

"Declaring it a national emergency instantly identifies this crisis as the most important public health emergency we've had since this nomenclature came about," said James Hodge Jr., a law professor at Arizona State University who specializes in public health law and emergency preparedness. "This is that serious of a crisis."

Hodge said presidential action would focus national attention on a disease killing an average of 150 Americans a day. The governors of Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Virginia have issued some form of emergency declaration on opioids in their states."


Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong

What really causes addiction - to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do - and if there might be a better way.

Why We Should Say Someone Is A 'Person With An Addiction,' Not An Addict

"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.

Last week, The Associated Press took an important step in that direction. The new edition of its widely used AP Stylebook declares that "addict" should no longer be used as a noun. "Instead," it says, "choose phrasing like he was addictedpeople with heroin addiction or he used drugs." In short, separate the person from the disease.

The style guide clarifies other important language to maximize precision and reduce bias in addiction coverage. There are new entries on "alcoholic" and on an array of substances, from bath salts and cocaine to PCP and synthetic cannabis."


September Is National Recovery Month, And The Nation Is Speaking Up

"September is National Recovery Month, a month reserved for celebration by the recovery community – those who have recovered from addiction – and their loved ones. Treatment centers, recovery community organizations and even nonprofit groups are stepping up to hold events, workshops, rallies, walks and more in hopes of eradicating the stigma surrounding addiction and continuing to urge those still struggling to get help.

Today there are still 23 million people struggling with addiction, and every year it is known that only about 10% of these individuals receive help. When coupling the staggering numbers of those personally facing addiction with those who are a friend or family member of that individual, these numbers exponentially rise. The impact of addiction is vast, often leading to broken families, overdoses, lost jobs, lost homes and even death."



Talking before charges: Newton’s police social worker aims to help

"As a young sergeant, Police Chief David MacDonald remembers the department responding to some homes twice during a 24-hour shift. Often the calls involved individuals who were struggling with an underlying mental health issue and policing wasn’t helping resolve the situation.

Police officers have always been on the front end responding to situations where mental health is a key factor. But how the force handles people suffering with mental illness and addiction is changing. Now, with a growing opioid crisis nationwide, it is a particularly prevalent issue.

“You can’t arrest your way out of these problems,” said Police Lt. Bruce Apotheker.

So a new question began to surface.

“How do you get to the people who need the resources?” said Apotheker."



On Reddit, Intimate Glimpses of Addicts in Thrall to Opioids

"Every day, thousands of people who are consumed by the nation’s opioid epidemic connect on the popular discussion website Reddit.

They swap advice on getting high and offer encouragement to those who have managed to stay clean or are teetering between recovery and relapse. Addicts lament the deaths of fellow users who have suddenly stopped posting. And until last week, buyers and sellers could easily find each other, relying on coded messages that communicated their intent.

Reddit banned the forum, known as opiaterollcall, last week but would not disclose what led to its closing. Another forum to buy opiates quickly sprang up to replace it; Reddit banned that one, too.

They were just small parts of one of the world’s largest online communities. But the dispatches left behind tell a surprisingly intimate story about the tenacity of the crisis, the trajectory of the addicted and Reddit’s role in facilitating access to drugs tied to the mounting toll across America."


The Psychological Center, Inc. Offers a Reminder that Children Are Victims of Addiction Too

"LAWRENCE — As the opioid epidemic continues to impact communities across the country, The Psychological Center, Inc. (TPC) would like to remind and educate the community on how this crisis is impacting children of substance abusers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 25 percent of children under the age of 18 are exposed to family alcohol and drug abuse or dependence. Research has shown that children in this environment are more likely to develop depression or anxiety at a young age, and use alcohol and/or drugs at an earlier age.

“It is easy for people to forget that in a household where a parent or another family member abuses drugs or alcohol, there are more victims than just the person who is suffering from addiction,” said Carina Pappalardo, CEO of The Psychological Center. “Ultimately, the children get hurt. These children are often neglected, which can result in mental and physical health issues, and even increase the likelihood that the child will develop a drug or alcohol problem of their own. Please, if you have or know a child who may be falling victim to their parent’s or guardian’s substance abuse, get them the help they need now.'"



Opioid Prescriptions Fell Over 5 Years, but but Still Higher Than in 1999

"WASHINGTON — The amount of opioid painkillers prescribed in the United States peaked in 2010, a new federal analysis has found, with prescriptions for higher, more dangerous doses dropping most sharply — by 41 percent — since then.

But the analysis, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that the prescribing rate in 2015 remained three times as high as in 1999, when the nation’s problem with opioid addiction was just getting started. And there is still tremendous regional variation in how many opioids doctors dole out, with far more prescribed per capita in parts of Maine, Nevada and Tennessee, for example, than in most of Iowa, Minnesota and Texas.

Over all, the analysis found that the amount of opioids prescribed fell 18 percent from 2010 to 2015, though it increased in 23 percent of counties."