Opioid Crisis: A Public Health Epidemic


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — In 2016, drug overdoses killed 64,000 Americans. That’s more than the yearly death toll from breast cancer. And, more than all of the American casualties during the Vietnam war. Experts say most of the increase in overdose deaths is due to opioid addiction. Learn about one family battling to keep their son alive.

Rick Van Warner says his family never saw it coming. One day at age 16, their middle son never came home from school. Frantic, Rick distributed flyers with a photo of his missing son, and began to piece together a shocking story of addiction.

“Initially we had no idea that the problem we were dealing with was so severe. That he had fallen into OxyContin and was getting that in the school,” Rick shared.

After days of searching, Rick found his son in an abandoned building. It was the start of a tumultuous battle. “Tommy” has been brought back from the brink of death twice. And, relapsed fourteen times. Lipi Roy, MD, MPH, DABAM, Clinical Assistant Professor, NYU Department of Population Health, is a nationally recognized expert in addiction medicine.

Dr. Roy explained, “Addiction is a chronic medical disease, a disease of the brain that’s relapsing and remitting, so relapse is expected. It is not a sign of moral weakness or failure.” (:08)

Dr. Roy says the goal in the addiction field used to be abstinence from drugs. She says now there’s a move toward what’s called harm reduction with programs like needle exchange and access to overdose reversing drugs like naloxone.

“These are interventions that actually reduce harm to the drug user. It’s about respecting a person and meeting them where they’re at,” continued Dr. Roy.

Van Warner says he has spent more than 200,000 dollars on his son’s recovery. His son is now 26 and has a job. Rick says his family takes life one day at a time.

“He’s a tremendously smart, loving person, and has a heart of gold, and there’s nothing he could do that would make me give up on him,” stated Rick.

Rick recently published a book about his family’s ordeal and son’s struggle with addiction called “On Pills and Needles.” Dr. Roy says families looking for additional resources can find help in their local communities, or by contacting SAMHSA, 24-7 toll free, at 1-800-662-help (4357), the federal substance abuse and mental health services administration.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath and Katie Campbell, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

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REPORT #2534

BACKGROUND: More than 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance abuse disorders related to prescription opiates such as hydrocodone, hydrocodone acetaminophen, oxycontin, Vicodin and others sold under such brand names as Percocet. The fastest growing demographic is with 12-17 year olds. Each year more and more health professionals are providing opiate addiction information and education to their patients when they prescribe these medications. Although opiate addiction by state varies widely, the most current numbers show that the problem is worst in New Mexico and West Virginia, with California and other western states reporting addiction rates higher than the national average. Adding to the problem is the fact that between 1999 and 2010 sales of prescription painkillers to hospitals, physicians and pharmacies increased by 400 percent, and overdose deaths from those painkillers increased 300 percent in the same time period. Studies also show that 80 percent of prescription painkillers that fall into the opiate class are prescribed by only 20 percent of prescribers, mostly from primary care and internal medicine physicians rather than specialists. And lastly, abuse of prescription painkiller drugs account for more than 475,000 emergency room visits each year.

(Source: http://beaconhouse.org/what-we-treat/opiate-addiction-treatment/opiate-addiction-facts-and-statistics/)

SIGNS AND TREATMENT: The signs and symptoms of substance abuse can be physical, behavioral, and psychological. One clear sign of addiction is not being able to stop using the substance. It is also not being able to stop yourself from using more than the recommended amount. Other signs and symptoms of opioid abuse can include poor coordination, drowsiness, shallow or slow breathing rate, nausea, physical agitation, slurred speech, sleeping more or less than normal, euphoria (feeling high), or irritability. Treatment for opioid addiction is different for each person. The main goal of treatment is to help you stop using the drug. Treatment also will help you avoid using it again in the future. Your doctor can prescribe certain medicines to help relieve your withdrawal symptoms when you stop using opioids. They will help control your cravings. These medicines include methadone (often used to treat heroin addiction), buprenorphine, and naltrexone. After detox, behavioral treatments can help you learn how to manage depression. These treatments also help you avoid opioids, deal with cravings, and heal damaged relationships. Some behavioral treatments include individual counseling, group or family counseling, and cognitive therapy.

(Source: https://familydoctor.org/condition/opioid-addiction/)

“SMARTER” OPIOIDS: A study published in the journal, Cell, concludes that it’s possible to create pain-relieving opioids that don’t cause side effects. A team led by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine examined how the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), a protein on the cell surface, is activated. With that knowledge, the researchers say they developed a new drug-like compound that only activates that receptor. That way, the opioids only relieve pain and aren’t addictive. Knowing that structure, Dr. Bryan Roth, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, said that drug-like compounds could be developed to be more selective to specific opioid receptors. “Drugs targeting this receptor are likely to have low-addiction potential and to not be associated with respiratory depression, which leads to death in opioid overdoses,” explained Roth. In addition, Amber C. Lindsey, LCDC-I, a program director at Taylor Recovery Center in Houston, shared that vaccines are currently being developed to target opioids in the bloodstream in hopes of preventing the drug from reaching the brain and exerting euphoric effects.

(Source: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/opioid-addiction-treatments-surface-in-2018#2)

* For More Information, Contact:

Lipi Roy, MD, MPH                                                               Karen Campbell, (616) 309-4390

Lipi.roy@nyumc.org                                                              Karen@karencampbellmedia.com