Breaking Heroin's Grip: Road to Recovery

On February 11, Maryland Public Television premiered "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Road to Recovery", a program that examined the stories of three Maryland residents in rural and urban settings with an opioid use disorder; this program concentrated on their individual struggles and recovery from addiction. Produced by MPT in association with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Behavioral Health Administration, this is a poignant and personal program shedding light on our region's pressing heroin problem. To watch the program and to view related videos such as "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Peer-to-peer recovery" and "Breaking Heroin's Grip: Long-term recovery", click here:


Chasing the Dragon - The Life of An Opiate Addict (Edited Version)

In this powerful video produced by the FBI and the DEA, witness first-hand the journeys into addiction and continuing struggles of opioid addictions. With this epidemic on the rise in Howard County, we need to arm ourselves and our families with the truth and understand the realities of opioid misuse.

Public Warning: 7 Overdose Deaths in 2 Hours in Westminster, MD

On January 27, 2017, a public warning was issued by Carroll County health officials after 7 heroin overdoses occurred between 10:00 a.m. and noon that day in Westminster. Ed Singer, an officer at the Carroll County Health Department stated, "That made us very concerned that there was a potentially more deadly mix out on the streets than what people are commonly dealing with."

Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths in USA, 2010-2015

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as presented in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from December 30, 2016, the U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing, and drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999–2014. The CDC summarized the article as follows:

What is already known about this topic?

The U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing. Drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999–2014. In 2014, among 47,055 drug overdose deaths, 61% involved an opioid. During 2013–2014, deaths associated with the most commonly prescribed opioids (natural/semisynthetic opioids) continued to increase slightly; however, the rapid increase in deaths appears to be driven by heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone.

What is added by this report?

From 2014 to 2015, the death rate from synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased by 72.2%, and heroin death rates increased by 20.6%. Rates of death involving heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone increased across all demographic groups, regions, and in numerous states. Natural/semisynthetic opioid death rates increased by 2.6%, whereas, methadone death rates decreased by 9.1%.

What are the implications for public health practice?

There is an urgent need for a multifaceted, collaborative public health and law enforcement approach to the opioid epidemic, including implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain; improving access to and use of prescription drug monitoring programs; expanding naloxone distribution; enhancing opioid use disorder treatment capacity and linkage into treatment, including medication-assisted treatment; implementing harm reduction approaches, such as syringe services program; and supporting law enforcement strategies to reduce the illicit opioid supply.

Click here to read the full article.

A Local Sister Lost to Heroin

Taylor was a smart, beautiful girl with a lot to live for. At 21, she overdosed on Heroin leaving her younger sister, Kylie, to live without her. As a country, state and county, we are losing far too many young people to heroin overdoses. 

County Executive Allan Kittleman, the Howard County Health Department and HC DrugFree invite you to view this new public service announcement. 

One-Third of Long-Term Users Say They're Hooked on Prescription Opioids

The Washington Post released an article stating that one-third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months say they became addicted to, or physically dependent on, the powerful painkillers, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

All long-term users surveyed said that they were introduced to the drugs by a doctor’s prescription, not by friends or through illicit means. But more than 6 in 10 said doctors offered no advice on how or when to stop taking the drugs. And 1 in 5 said doctors provided insufficient information about the risk of side effects, including addiction.

The survey raises sharp questions about the responsibility of doctors for an epidemic of addiction and overdose that has claimed nearly 180,000 lives since 2000. Opioid deaths surged to more than 30,000 last year, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with deaths from heroin alone surpassing the toll from gun homicides. 

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Surgeon General Released First Report Dedicated to Substance Misuse and Related Disorders

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health was released today. According to the report, alcohol and drug misuse, substance use disorders and addiction are the most pressing public health concern facing America. The release of today’s landmark report marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders. 

To read report:

A Call For Mylan CEO Heather Bresch To Reduce EpiPen Price And Resign

It was one year ago, August 25, 2015, when my one-year-old daughter Cecelia almost died of anaphylaxis. She had asked for a banana but we wanted her to eat more than just fruit. My wife served her a peanut butter substitute and jam on bread. We were cooking dinner for ourselves when we first saw the tell-tale red blotches and hives.

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Obama Administration Funds New Projects to Disrupt Prescription Opioid, Fentanyl and Heroin Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Obama Administration announced $17 million in funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) across the country. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program helps Federal, state, and local authorities address emerging drug threats by coordinating drug enforcement operations, supporting prevention efforts and improving public health and safety.

Click here to read full News Release by The White House

Scientists Engineer An Opioid That May Reduce Pain With Less Risk

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

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Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission granted preliminary approval to 15 medical marijuana growers and 15 processors

The potential licensees comprise a diverse group of principals, executives and corporate officers including Maryland residents associated with long-time established Maryland businesses, entrepreneurs, women and minority-operated enterprises. Seven of the Processors are affiliated with Growers who received Stage One pre-approvals.

Click here for printable press release.

As states OK medical marijuana laws, doctors struggle with knowledge gap

By Shefali Luthra

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine for almost 20 years. But Farmington physician Jean Antonucci says she continues to feel unprepared when counseling sick patients about whether the drug could benefit them.

Will it help my glaucoma? Or my chronic pain? My chemotherapy’s making me nauseous, and nothing’s helped. Is cannabis the solution? Patients hope Antonucci, 62, can answer those questions. But she said she is still “completely in the dark.”

Click here to read full article on USA Today

Advocates call on state to offer buprenorphine to opioid addicts in jails, prisons

As opioid addiction rises, public health advocates in Maryland are calling for more treatment where many addicts end up: in jails and prisons.

In Maryland, only Baltimore and a few counties offer any treatment in their jails. The state-run jail in Baltimore offers only detoxification. The state offers some counseling in its prisons and continues detox for 21 days. But advocates and treatment professionals say it's not enough to keep addicts off the drugs over the long term.

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Carfentanil and Heroin Overdose in Ohio

Hamilton County met an overdose spike after a new combination of carfentanil and heroin reached the streets. The mix makes the drug more potent, and therefore more dangerous.

The officials warn that Narcan, the overdose medicine that is sold in pharmacies without a prescription, may not be efficient in the case of this obscure combination. The mix could explain the overdose spike in the northeastern Ohio.

Carfentanil is being used as an elephant tranquilizer. It is said that it’s 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Until now, it is linked to two overdose deaths in Akron.

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State Medicaid program limits access to a drug treatment, upsetting advocates

By: Meredith Cohn and Jean Marbella 

As heroin and other opioid-related overdose deaths continue to rise across Maryland, some who treat addiction are criticizing a move by the state to limit access to a drug treatment used by thousands of patients and considered effective.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene changed this month the list of drugs preferred by Medicaid to exclude Suboxone Film, a small, medication-infused sheet that dissolves under the tongue and is used to taper addiction by interrupting the effects of opioids in the brain.

The health insurance program for the poor replaced the film with a pill called Zubsolv.

Click here to read the details in the Baltimore Sun article.

K2 Overdoses Surge in New York: At Least 130 Cases This Week Alone

Almost as soon as the young man crouching on a trash-strewed street in Brooklyn pulled out a crumpled dollar bill from his pocket and emptied its contents of dried leaves into a wrapper, he had company. A half-dozen disheveled men and women walked swiftly to where the young man was rolling a cigarette of a synthetic drug known as K2 to wait for a chance to share.

The drug has been the source of an alarming and sudden surge in overdoses — over three days this week, 130 people across New York City were treated in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing on K2, almost equaling the total for the entire month of June, according to the city’s health department. About one-fourth of the overdoses, 33, took place on Tuesday along the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, the same Brooklyn neighborhoods where, despite a heightened presence of police officers, people were again openly smoking the drug on Thursday.

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CADCA Legislative Update

Breaking News: House of Representatives Passes CARA: On July 8, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 407-5 to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) Conference Committee bill.  It is the most comprehensive and historic effort undertaken yet to address the opioid epidemic.  It strengthens prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and overdose reversal. HC DrugFree remains a proud member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) .