from the will-it-help-or-hinder? dept.
The White House announced a new Heroin Response Strategy on Monday to combat a "heroin/opioid epidemic" across 15 states in the northeast:
The Office of National Drug Control Policy said it would spend $2.5 million to hire public safety and public health coordinators in five areas in an attempt to focus on the treatment, rather than the punishment, of addicts. The funding — a sliver of the $25.1 billion that the government spends every year to combat drug use — will help create a new "heroin response strategy" aimed at confronting the increase in use of the drug. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin-related deaths had nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
[...] Once thought of as a drug used only by hard-core addicts, heroin has infiltrated many communities, largely because of its easy availability and its low price, officials said. The problem has become especially severe in New England, where officials have called for a renewed effort to confront it. Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State Message in January to what he called "a full-blown heroin crisis" in his state. Like the new White House effort, the governor called for a new, treatment-based approach to the drug.
[More after the break...]
Thomas McLellan, President Obama's chief scientist for drug control policy from 2009 to 2012, said $2.5 million "is not close to the financial commitment that is needed" and that use of the opiate-blocker naloxone is a squandered second chance without proper follow-up care. Executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, was also dismissive of the announcement:
Nadelmann sees drug policy as existing along a continuum, from "lock'em up, hang'em, pull out their fingernails, Singapore, Saudi Arabia" all the way down to "essentially no controls whatsoever, maybe a little for kids." Unfortunately, he says, American drug policy under Obama is way too close to the hang'em end of the spectrum—and this new heroin program won't change the administration's position much in his eyes. That's because it's a bait-and-switch. It's promoted as a treatment-first program, but the details lean heavily toward enforcement and incarceration. It calls for 15 drug intelligence officers and 15 health policy analysts to collect data on overdoses and trends in heroin trafficking. Everyone will feed the data back to a joint health-law enforcement coordination center, which will distribute the data across state lines. That's great for cops. They need fresher leads on where heroin is coming from, who is moving it, and where it's being purchased. But public health officials don't need to know the intricacies of trafficking in order to respond to an ongoing epidemic.
According to a July 7th report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2013, with 8,200 deaths in the year 2013. During that period, heroin use increased the most among females (100%), the 18-25 age group (109%), and non-Hispanic whites (114%). Heroin use among households with less than $20,000 of annual income increased 62%, compared to 77% for households with $20,000-$49,999, and 60% for households with $50,000 or more. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, said that the "epidemic" is growing out of prescription opioid painkiller abuse. He estimates that heroin is available at one-fifth the cost of prescription painkillers.
It's that time of the year again. Time to talk about drugs and the war on them because some stoners declared a holiday or something.
At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. "You want to know what this was really all about?" he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
[Oh yes, it continues...]
In order to help fight the heroin epidemic in the northeast United States, Kroger supermarkets and CVS pharmacies will carry the anti-overdose (opioid antagonist) drug naloxone (trade name: Narcan) over the counter:
Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. said Friday it will make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky, a region hard-hit by deadly heroin. Kroger said more than 200 of its pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days. "We want families dealing with addiction to know that they can count on having the drug available in the event that they need it," Jeff Talbot, Kroger vice president of merchandising, said in a statement.
Ohio fire crews and other first responders use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 percent in 2014, one of the nation's sharpest increases. Those on the front lines of the battle against heroin's spread have increasingly supported allowing and educating families and friends of addicts to administer naloxone in emergencies.
State regulators in Ohio and Kentucky have allowed the drug to be sold over the counter. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Kroger officials at a Cincinnati grocery store for the retailer's announcement. Portman has been pushing a multi-pronged heroin bill in the Senate that includes expanded availability of naloxone. "This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and we all need to continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic," Portman, from the Cincinnati area, said in a statement.
CVS said recently it will soon offer naloxone without a prescription at its Ohio pharmacies.
Naloxone became available over the counter in Australia on February 1.
In the U.S., there are currently a patchwork of state laws which govern access to Naloxone.
In the U.K. as of 1 October, 2015, "...[A]ny worker in a commissioned drug service can now distribute naloxone without prescription."
Tired of encountering dead bodies, the police department of Gloucester, MA (an old city with a large commercial fishing industry) decided to appeal for the public's help in a rather interesting way, via a department Facebook post:
Gotta go make some calls.....
Top 5 Pharmaceutical CEO Salaries:
5. Eli Lilly - John Lechleiter $14.48 million
4. Abbott Labs - Miles D. White $17.7 million
3. Merck - Kenneth C. Frazier
$25 million + cool private jet.
2. Johnson & Johnson - Alex Gorsky $20.38 million
1. Pfizer - Ian Read $23.3 million
They're all on Forbes Top 100 CEO salaries as well.
In 2013 The Huffington Post reported that the 11 largest pharmaceutical companies made $711 BILLION in profits in the last decade while their CEO's made a combined $1.57 BILLION in the same period.
Now...don't get mad. Just politely ask them what they are doing to address the opioid epidemic in the United States and if they realize that the latest data shows almost 80% of addicted persons start with a legally prescribed drug that they make. They can definitely be part of the solution here and I believe they will be....might need a little push.
takyon: A newer Facebook post says that Pfizer is in contact with the Gloucester Police Department.
The Obama administration is loosening restrictions on buprenorphine/Suboxone prescriptions in order to fight the "heroin epidemic", while calling on Congress to act on a request for $1.1 billion in additional funding for opioid treatment programs across the U.S.:
The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine. Doctors who are licensed to prescribe the drug, which is sold mostly under the brand name Suboxone, will be allowed to treat as many as 275 patients a year. That's almost triple the current limit of 100, and HHS estimated that as many as 70,000 more people may have access to the drug as a result.
"There are a number of ways we are trying to increase access to medication-assisted treatment," said Michael Botticelli, the director of national drug control policy, on a conference call with reporters. "This rule itself expands access and gets more physicians to reach more patients."
Suboxone is itself an opioid. It eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but doesn't make people high. [...] Botticelli said an average 129 people a day die from opioid overdoses.
White House Announces Heroin Response Strategy for the US Northeast
Alarming Rise in Death Rates for Middle-Aged White Americans
Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
4/20: Half-Baked Headline