Archive for May, 2015

Broward County Mobilizes Flakka Prevention Education for the Public

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

May 13, 2015

In response to the rife availability of the synthetic designer drug, flakka, police authorities and local state officials are attempting to educate the public on the dangers of the addictive substance. According to the Broward Palm Beach New Times on May 11th flakka use in Broward County has increased 45 percent over the year. On May 13th the State Department of Health, Broward County Schools, United Way, Broward Addiction and Recovery Center, Broward Health and other local addiction groups will help to get the word out about the dangerous of flakka and its usage. The prevention efforts will be presented to students, teachers, working professionals, parents, and medical professionals. Harbor Village Detox is a residential drug rehab treatment center dedicated to help patients overcome the throes of addiction. The drug treatment center asserts measures for prevention education and harm reduction tactics will help redress South Florida’s recent flakka spike.

Flakka’s popularity has increased principally because of its inexpensive price tag. Users on the street can acquire the addictive substance for $4-5. Dealers purposefully give their clients free samples to get the hooked. Flakka catapults its users into a state of heightened delirium, inciting violence, hallucinations, and unpredictable behavior. Alike most synthetic substances, medical professionals struggle to treat the adverse effects induced by flakka, because the chemical composition of the substance changes from batch to batch. Prevention education aims to educate the public about the dangerous effects of the drug, in the hopes teens and adults stay far away from the substance.

Harbor Village Detox is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in South Florida; in the middle of the flakka crisis, the drug treatment center urges parents, students, and working professionals to get involved with the prevention education efforts coordinated by local officials. An associate comments, “When we take the veil away from drugs, disband the mystery surrounding their use and consumption we are able to paint a very honest, vivid picture of what drug use and subsequent addiction truly is. Teens and other users can succumb to their curiosity, or indulge during times of great stress and trauma- but with the proper foreknowledge we can make a marked difference in many peoples’ lives with the gift of education. Going to local talks about flakka, or Alpha-PVP can literally save hundreds, if not thousands the misery of going through the acute paranoia, anxiety, and aggressiveness the drug causes.”

Harbor Village Detox is committed to providing the apex of drug and alcohol addiction treatment to the entire state of Florida and the nation. The inpatient medical detox program in Florida helps patients recover from the physical and mental ailments of addiction, and offer instrumental life coaching services to set patients up for long term success after successfully graduating from treatment, The addiction counselors at Harbor Village Detox teach patients how to manage their stress, depression, and anger in constructive, healthy alternatives to substance abuse.

Patients receive immediate treatment for the symptoms of withdrawal upon arrival and enjoy gourmet meals, full spa and salon amenities, and participate in group counseling, intensive therapy, and holistic healing sessions of yoga and meditation.

Addiction expert: medications can help addicts feel "normal"

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

May 13, 2015

by Erin Beck, Staff writer

Just because some drugs used to treat opiate dependence are sold on the street does not mean they aren’t legitimate medicines with the ability to save lives, an expert on addiction treatment said during a Governor’s Substance Abuse Regional Task Force meeting Monday.

Dr. Carl “Rolly” Sullivan, director of the addictions program at the WVU School of Medicine, said Suboxone, the brand name for buprenorphine and naloxone, is in demand because it helps addicts, whose brains have been chemically altered by long-term opiate use, to function normally. He noted that getting in to see a doctor to prescribe the drug can be difficult.

Sullivan also took issue with doctors who set arbitrary time lines for taking their patients off Suboxone and buprenorphine.

“If you had somebody with diabetes and they were sick and you got them on insulin and they got well, you would never say, well that’s great, you’re well, now let’s get you off that insulin,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, who has worked in addiction treatment since 1985, spoke at the Saint John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston before dozens of people from 10 counties in the region. He talked about medications over the years that have been used to assist in opiate addiction.

He described the year 2001 as a low point in his career, after the “opiate tsunami” hit in the late 1990s. While the abstinence model worked “pretty well” for the alcoholics who made up the bulk of his practice before that, it was resulting in relapses and overdose deaths for his opiate-addicted patients.

Methadone, when it began being used for opiate addiction in the early 2000s, helped about half the people, he said, but clinics quickly became focused on making money and keeping people coming back to the clinics instead of recovery.

Sullivan, who was medical director at Chestnut Ridge Hospital for nine years, said he thinks buprenorphine was “hands-down the best thing to happen” in the field of opiate addiction treatment. He started using it with his patients in 2003.

“It didn’t get them high,” he said. “These people just felt normal.”

It was also different from methadone, because patients don’t overdose and die on it, he said.

However, the government mandated that doctors could only give it to 30 patients at a time.

They would say things like “You don’t want your office filled up with a bunch of drug addicts,” he said. “What if grandma’s in there?”

He said the limit is now 100 patients.

“Nobody can tell you really why that is,” he said.

Sullivan also recommends adding counseling and 12-step programs.

“Remember it’s medication-assisted treatment, not just medication treatment,” he said.

He had harsh words about naltrexone, a medication that blocks the effects of opiates so that drugs don’t produce the desired high, as a treatment.

“It’s one of the drugs that sound great in theory,” he said.

But it was “an absolute spectacular failure, because nobody would take it,” he said.

He then clarified that there were a couple groups that would take it — doctors, if they had to in order to keep their ability to practice, and parolees, if they were court-ordered.

The drug companies have recently tried to pitch the drug again in injectable form as Vivitrol.

During the last legislative session, the West Virginia State Legislature passed a bill, sponsored by Delegate Chris Stansbury, R-Kanawha, to begin a pilot program involving giving that drug to offenders in the criminal justice system. Stansbury was in attendance at the event Monday evening.


Scientists Create Opioid Receptors Activated by Light

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

May 11, 2015

the Neurology Advisor take:

Scientists have discovered a method of activating opioid receptors in the brain using light, according to a new study published in Neuron.

The researchers combined the rhodopsin protein, which senses light in the retina of the eye, with a Mu opioid receptor. The resulting was a receptor that responds to light in the same way that standard opioid receptors respond to opiate drugs like morphine or OxyContin.

Opioid receptors have several functions in the body aside from their role in stopping pain: They are also involved in breathing, the gastrointestinal tract, and reward response. The researchers used light as a way to limit these receptors to performing one task at a time. In this case, they sought to mimic how opioid receptors respond to pain-killing drugs.

In a test tube, the researchers exposed their receptors to light. The receptors reacted by releasing the same chemicals usually realized by standard opioid receptors. When the receptors were injected into the brains of mice, the researchers were able to use light to stimulate a reward response.

Typically, opioid drugs have been the best option for patients suffering from severe pain. However, these drugs come with the potential for abuse and side effects. With more testing, the researchers hope that they can treat pain using light instead of these potentially dangerous drugs. 

Despite the abuse potential of opioid drugs, they have long been the best option for patients suffering from severe pain. The drugs interact with receptors on brain cells to tamp down the body’s pain response. But now, neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a way to activate opioid receptors with light.

In a test tube, the scientists melded the light-sensing protein rhodopsin to key parts of opioid receptors to activate receptor pathways using light. They also influenced the behavior of mice by injecting the receptors into the brain, using light instead of drugs to stimulate a reward response.

Flakka, Synthetic Drug behind Increasingly Bizarre Crimes

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

April 30, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — one man ran naked through a Florida neighborhood, tried to have sex with a tree and told police he was the mythical god Thor. Another ran nude down a busy city street in broad daylight, convinced a pack of German shepherds was pursuing him.

Two others tried separately to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. They said they thought people were chasing them; one wound up impaled on a fence.

The common element to these and other bizarre incidents in Florida in the last few months is Flakka, an increasingly popular synthetic designer drug. Also known as gravel and readily available for $5 or less a vial, it’s a growing problem for police after bursting on the scene in 2013.

It is the latest in a series of synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and bath salts, but officials say Flakka is even easier to obtain in small quantities through the mail. Flakka’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called alpha-PVP, which is on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of the controlled substances most likely to be abused. It is usually made overseas in countries such as China and Pakistan.

Flakka, a derivative of the Spanish word for a thin, pretty woman, is usually sold in a crystal form and is often smoked using electronic cigarettes, which are popular with young people and give off no odor. It can also be snorted, injected or swallowed.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” said Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale. “They still want to try it because it’s so cheap. It gives them heightened awareness. They feel stronger and more sensitive to touch. But then the paranoia sets in.”

Judging from the evidence being seized by police around Florida, Flakka use is up sharply. Submissions for testing to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime labs have grown from 38 in 2013 to 228 in 2014. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office laboratory, Flakka submissions grew from fewer than 200 in 2014 to 275 already, in just the first three months of this year, according to spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion.

“It’s definitely something we are watching. It’s an emerging drug,” said Chad Brown, an FDLE supervisory special agent.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Florida appears to be the nation’s hot spot for reports of Flakka, also known as gravel. News reports have also cited Flakka or gravel appearing in Ohio, Texas and Tennessee.

In one recent case, 22-year-old Jaime Nicole Lewis was charged in a DEA complaint with conspiracy to distribute Flakka after DEA agents based in London intercepted U.S.-bound packages of the drug that were made in Hong Kong. An undercover DEA agent posing as a delivery company employee then brought the packages to Lewis’ home in Palm Beach County, according to a court affidavit.

“Synthetic drugs are illegal and present a grave danger to our community, particularly our children,” said Miami U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer.

Lewis is being held without bail and is due to enter a plea next week. Her attorney, Paul Lazarus, said prosecutors will have to prove she knew the packages contained illegal drugs. A man believed to be the Flakka ringleader in this case also is charged, but has not been arrested.

New cases keep coming: On Thursday, police in Boynton Beach arrested 20-year-old Qushanna Doby on child neglect charges after officers found her 1-year-old daughter, crying and shivering in a soiled diaper, outside an office building along a busy road. Doby told officers she had had smoked flakka, and suffered hallucinations from the drug in the past. It wasn’t clear if she had an attorney.

James West, a 50-year-old homeless man, was caught on surveillance video in February trying to kick in the heavy glass front door of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, finally cracking it with large rocks. Bleeding above one eye, West told officers that he was desperate for help from police because “he was being chased by 20-25 individuals and he didn’t know why.” He later told police he had smoked Flakka.

In March, Shanard Neely got impaled through the buttocks on the department’s 10-foot-high security fence while trying to climb over, convinced he was being pursued and that “he needed to go to jail or they would kill him,” police said. Neely, 37, also told officers he had smoked Flakka. It took hours for rescuers to cut him down.

And in Palm Beach County, a SWAT team had to talk Leroy Strothers, 33, off a rooftop in January. He had fired a shot from up there, claiming he was being followed by a Haitian gang that had threatened his family. Strothers, who was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, told officers he had smoked flakka and could not remember how he got on the roof.

“I’m feeling delusional and hallucinating,” Strothers said, according to a sheriff’s report.

The FDLE’s Brown said his agency is training police to better recognize Flakka and the symptoms it can cause.

One challenge is that Flakka manufacturers make subtle changes to its chemical makeup, foiling efforts to test for the drug, and it is frequently mixed with other substances, such as crack cocaine or heroin, with unknown effects, said Maines, of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

With prolonged use over as little as three days, behavioral changes can be severe.

“It actually starts to rewire the brain chemistry. They have no control over their thoughts. They can’t control their actions,” Maines said. “It seems to be universal that they think someone is chasing them. It’s just a dangerous, dangerous drug.”


Region making progress in getting people into opioid treatment

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

May 09,2015

SPRINGFIELD — Psychiatric nurse practitioner Jim Walsh has seen a lot in 32 years of working with people with mental health and addiction issues. But he told a roomful of business representatives Friday there has been real progress in the state’s fight against opiate dependence. Walsh said the state now has a system in place, “a hub-and-spoke system” he called it, that ultimately helps the state’s addicts get the medical and mental health treatment they need. The state believes the hub-and-spoke system of treatment will attract the state’s addicts to seek treatment.

The “hubs,” he said, are treatment centers in Brattleboro, Rutland and West Lebanon, N.H., in southern Vermont, where people with heroin and prescription opioid drug addictions can get methadone, and be closely monitored for progress or problems. There are eight such hubs throughout the state, he said.

Walsh said sometimes it still takes one to two months to get someone into a treatment program, although in some cases the wait has been as short as a week.

He said he didn’t have the statistics yet to back up his “anecdotal” assessment. But he has a lot of experience.

Walsh has worked for Springfield Medical Care Systems Inc., the parent organization of Springfield Hospital, for 16 years, and before that, he worked for 16 years at the Brattleboro Retreat. He said employees with what he called “complicated situations” can present equally complicated problems for employers, who must balance federal medical privacy laws, state and federal workplace rules with the overall goal of helping people get their lives back on track. He said diversion of drugs that patients get at treatment centers remains a “big issue.” But the state is learning how to test not just for the opioids directly, but also other indicators.

Walsh ran down a list of signs and symptoms of opioid abuse, including physical, behavioral and psychological symptoms, as well as some of the side effects.

People in the 40- to 45-year age group have a very low success rate, he said, and the medical community usually has to be “very careful” with those addicts seeking treatment. Young pregnant mothers who are addicts are often very successful beating their addiction, he said. And he warned those businesses with routine drug testing that some people use methadone legally, particularly for back pain.

People should not come to work under the influence of alcohol, and neither should they come to work under the influence of marijuana, he said, medical card or not. Several businesspeople at the morning meeting at the River Valley Café at the River Valley Career Center said they were faced with employees with various drug issues, whether it was medical marijuana use or suspected drug use by people using heavy machinery.

One businesswoman said her company had a second location in Colorado and legal marijuana there posed a severe problem for their business. Bob Flint, executive director of Springfield Regional Development Corp. said the issue of drug use and abuse is one of the constant questions he’s asked about by businesses, and that’s why he set up Friday morning’s session.

“I talk to businesses every day about their needs and opportunities, and one of the challenges they face relates to substance abuse,” he said.

Alcohol's effects stretch far beyond the Liver, cautions Chapters Capistrano

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by sobrietyresources


While liver damage is one of the most commonly recognized effects of consuming too much alcohol, other organs are negatively impacted as well, reveals Chapters Capistrano.

Many people feel the immediate effects of alcohol, but tend to overlook how it affects their body as a whole. The short term rewards they receive can be outweighed by the lingering effects and harm they are causing internally. A recent article in the Las Vegas Sun sheds light on how alcohol is metabolized and makes its way through the various organs. Chapters Capistrano has released a statement to the press regarding the impact of alcohol on the body and the importance of seeking treatment in the event of alcoholism.

“With alcohol, the damage that it causes is not necessarily visible,” says Mike Shea, founder of the luxury drug and alcohol rehab center in Orange County. “You can’t see the fatty deposits building in your liver or the increase in blood pressure and added strain it puts on your heart. Alcohol affects multiple organs in the body.”

One fact that many people may not realize is that the liver metabolizes alcohol at a certain rate. This rate does not change dependent on much alcohol they have consumed. Just because they have consumed more drinks does not mean that their liver will work more quickly to metabolize the alcohol. It can also take time to feel the effects of alcohol depending on how much the person has eaten. This delay can lead them to drink more because they are feeling fine and not really intoxicated.

“Alcohol also affects the way the brain works,” notes Shea. “It actually suppresses the central nervous system and slows down how quickly the brain processes information. In addition, dopamine levels increase. A little bit of alcohol can make you feel relaxed and calm, but too much can lead to unconsciousness. You may not realize how much you are drinking until it’s too late.”

A few other effects the article highlights are increased blood pressure, risk of heart disease, and aggravation of conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Another danger is dehydration. Add to this the summer heat and it can be a dangerous combination. According to Dr. Clarence Dunagan, MD, FACEP, medical director of emergency services at Mountain View Hospital and Fremont Emergency Services, “We used to think we could use IV fluids on really intoxicated patients to help sober them up, but it doesn’t work that way. IV fluids make patients feel better because it hydrates them, but they still have to metabolize the liquor at whatever rate the liver is able to.”

“Alcohol puts strain on your body from multiple aspects,” says Shea. “You want to make sure that if you’re drinking, you are getting plenty of water to stay hydrated and really watching how much alcohol you consume. If you find that you’re regularly drinking heavily or binge drinking, seeking treatment from an alcohol rehab center can help you to safely and effectively overcome these issues and promote better health. You only get one body and one life, so you want to protect it and treat it well.” Chapters Capistrano offers customized treatment programs that fit with your needs and can help you to turn your life around. It’s not too late to change, adds Shea.

Docs Need Better Training to Treat Opioid Addiction,

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

Congress Told Medication-assisted treatment is often the most effective, witnesses said


WASHINGTON — Physicians need better training in how to manage pain as well as how to treat addiction to opioids, several experts told a congressional committee.

“[We need] to develop better strategies for the management of chronic pain,” said Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in Bethesda, Md., while testifying Friday at a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on government efforts to combat the opioid abuse epidemic. “Physicians are forced — their patients are suffering, they don’t know what to do and give an opioid, even though the evidence does not really show us they’re effective for chronic pain, but there are not very many alternatives.”

Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) here, noted that “since time in [graduate medical education] programs dedicated to the identification and treatment of substance use disorders is rare, we’ve worked with federal partners to develop continuing education programs on substance use, managing pain appropriately, and treating patients using opioids more safely …. [However], a large percentage of prescribers have not availed themselves of this training.”

That is one reason why “the [Obama] administration continues to push for mandatory prescriber education tied to controlled substance licensure,” he added.

In his opening statement, subcommittee chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) listed the high numbers associated with substance use disorders. “While the trends of other major causes of death such as auto accidents went down, drug poisoning continued to go up 21% from 2008 to 2013. In many states these numbers are soaring at high double-digit rates of increase,” he said.

“As Mr. Botticelli has indicated to me privately … we must do better and we have much work to do.”

The hearing witnesses generally agreed that medication combined with behavioral support has been shown to be the most effective treatment for substance use disorders including opioid addiction. In particular, “methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, when used as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan, have been shown to facilitate abstinence and reduce overdoses and HIV infection,” said Volkow.

“Yet despite the strong evidence, less than 40% of those receiving treatment for opioid addiction get treated with these medications.”

The reasons that addicts aren’t receiving evidence-based treatment are varied, said Volkow, “including the fact of adequate education as it relates to screening and management of substance use disorders, and then a whole infrastructure has developed because addiction is stigmatized, so the likelihood of people accessing care is much lower.”

Richard Frank, PhD, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, added that other reasons include “insurance dynamics that hopefully we’re fixing, access to trained professionals, and then there’s… trying to get the system, the infrastructures aligned so they support the best practices.”

Murphy expressed caution about continued encouragement of medication-assisted therapy, in that continued reliance on opioids is a high risk factor for heroin addiction. “I have referred to buprenorphine as a ‘heroin helper’ not because the medication is altogether lacking, but rather, because the infrastructure the federal government has created for the use of this highly potent and important medication is not working and, worse yet, is contributing to the growing problem,” he said in his opening statement.

“Again, please do not misconstrue this critique as a general indictment of opioid maintenance,” he added. “It is not. For some people, opioid maintenance is the most appropriate bridge treatment and there should be no shame or stigma associated with it. But opioid maintenance therapy should not be the only treatment offered to opioid-dependent individuals, nor the only goal.”

Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) took a different tack. “Why do we have experts week after week telling us the bulk of treatments Americans are receiving for this devastating disease are ineffective, outdated, and not evidence-based?” she asked in her opening statement. “We might not have a silver bullet … at this point, but we do know what treatments work better than others. I think we need a multi-faceted approach.”

Murphy also wanted to know more about how the witnesses defined “recovery.” “[When] the ONDCP uses the term ‘recovery,’ does it mean to include patients with opiate addiction in buprenorphine or methadone treatment programs and still using heroin or other illicit drugs, or is that not recovery?” he asked Botticelli.

In his answer, Botticelli did not shy away from talking about his own history of substance use disorders. “From our perspective and also as a person in recovery, clearly we want to make sure people are continuing to progress in recovery and that freedom from substances is the ultimate goal,” he said. “But we also know substance use and opioid use disorders are significant chronic disorders, and often, and even in my own experience, people will often experience relapse and will often need multiple attempts at treatment to get to that long-term goal.”

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which occurs when a woman takes addictive opiate drugs during pregnancy, was another problem the witnesses mentioned at the hearing. Volkow said that an article in the New England Journal of Medicine ”shows a very significant quadrupling in the number of cases of NAS in the [intensive care unit]; that does reflect the fact that many women are being prescribed opioid medications during the pregnancy itself.”

“Another study estimates that 21% of women who are pregnant are going to receive an opioid,” she continued. “That highlights [the fact] that guidelines in management of pain need to be enforced in better ways.”

Investigation: Top Massachusetts Doctors Prescribed Oxycodone 13,000+ Times

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by sobrietyresources


Twenty five physicians and health professionals in Massachusetts prescribed Oxycodone over 13,000 times in one year under Medicare — including the leading prescriber whose license was suspended the following year in Rhode Island following patient deaths — and was arrested in the Commonwealth the following year.

Fathala Mashali, who was reported to have prescribed Oxycodone under Medicare over 2,500 times in 2012 — twice the amount of the next doctor and three times the third – was found to have billed Medicare $3.4 million in 2012.

Twenty five physicians and health professionals in Massachusetts prescribed Oxycodone over 13,000 times in one year under Medicare — including the leading prescriber whose license was suspended the following year in Rhode Island following patient deaths — and was arrested in the Commonwealth the following year.

Fathala Mashali, who was reported to have prescribed Oxycodone under Medicare over 2,500 times in 2012 — twice the amount of the next doctor and three times the third – was found to have billed Medicare $3.4 million in 2012.

Last month, Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett reported, “Federal prosecutors were at it again this month, accusing a Dover physician with 21 counts of Medicare fraud after having already levied some 23 charges against the same doctor in 2013 and 2014.”

SLIDES:  See Top Oxycodone Prescribing MA Doctors Under Medicare BELOW

In its report, ProPublica cited the findings that reporter Charles Ornstein said raised flags.

“Medicare had failed to use its own records to flag doctors who prescribed thousands of dangerous, inappropriate or unnecessary,” wrote Ornstein.

“Beginning next month, the agency also will compel health providers to enroll in Medicare to order medications for patient’s in Part D, closing the loophole that has allowed some practitioners to operate with little or no oversight,” continued Ornstein. “Medicare Part D is popular among seniors for helping to lower their drug costs. But experts have complained that since Part D began in 2006, Medicare has placed a higher priority on getting prescriptions into patients’ hands than on targeting problem prescribers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general has repeatedly called for tighter controls.”

First dubbed as an epidemic by the CDC in 2011, the problem has only increased. “Deaths from prescription painkillers have also quadrupled since 1999, killing more than 16,000 people in the U.S. in 2013. Nearly two million Americans, aged 12 or older, either abused or were dependent on opioids in 2013 (the most recent year of full data),” wrote the CDC.

GoLocalWorcester reviewed data collected by the non-profit, media watchdog group, ProPublica who has been collected and organizing federal data. The data collected by ProPublica and reviewed and categorized by GoLocalWorcester comes from new federal reporting requirements impacting the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS).

In February Governor Baker announced the formation of an Opioid Addiction Working Group, releasing for the first time, county-level data on the number of prescriptions written for opioids and the number of confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths.  The prescription numbers are a result of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which mandates all opioid prescribers enroll in the program.  At its launch, 65% of health professionals required to enroll were, with the remainder expected to sign up by the fall of 2015.

In 2013, Massachusetts witnessed a record 978 overdose deaths with 112 of those in Worcester County.

Worcester County DA Joseph Early said in March that the opiate-abuse problem needs to be attacked from every possible angle, stressing the need for prevention programs, access to treatment and aggressive prosecution of drug dealers and traffickers, and application of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan by police and first-responders has already made a difference, but deaths from heroin and other opioids continue to be high.“

“This is an issue that continues to cause a lot of pain, grief and tragedy,” Early.

Physicians need better training in how to manage pain as well as how to treat addiction to opioids, several experts told a congressional committee. “[We need] to develop better strategies for the management of chronic pain,” said Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in Bethesda, Md., while testifying Friday at a House Energy & Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on government efforts to combat the opioid abuse epidemic. “Physicians are forced — their patients are suffering, they don’t know what to do and give an opioid, even though the evidence does not really show us they’re effective for chronic pain, but there are not very many alternatives.”

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