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

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.

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) .

Heroin Epidemic Escalates Across Maryland

By Deb Belt

Annapolis, MD — ‘Epidemic’ isn’t big enough to describe the scourge of heroin sweeping across Maryland -- and the rest of the country.

Heroin has a stranglehold on city-dwellers and suburbanites alike.

Despite warnings that one dose of the illicit opioid can be not only instantly addictive but sometimes fatal -- either in the short term or the long run -- heroin usage has increased in the state in recent years.

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Prince died of accidental overdose of opioid fentanyl, medical examiner says

By Ralph Ellis and Sara Sidner

Ramsey, Minnesota (CNN) - Toxicology tests for Prince concluded that the entertainer died from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl, according to a report on his death by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office.

Fentanyl, prescribed by doctors for cancer treatment, can be made illicitly and is blamed for a spike in overdose deaths in the United States. It's 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Click here to view full article on CNN.

Governor's Heroin Emergency Task Force Issues Final Report

Maryland Reporter.com

ADDRESSING OPIOID PROBLEMS: A task force named by Gov. Larry Hogan to address Maryland's heroin overdose problem concluded its work Tuesday by recommending expanded access to treatment, tighter monitoring of prescription drugs and greater focus on groups like inmates and ex-offenders, reports Jean Marbella for the Sun.

DEA Finds Heroin Use Skyrocketing Across U.S.

By Pete Williams, NBC News

According to the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, deaths from drug overdoses climbed to 46,471 in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available.

"Roughly half of the overdose deaths are related to abuse of prescription drugs and another 8,000 involve heroin. So combined those two things account for two-thirds of the overdose deaths," said DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. Click here to read the NBC News story.

Massachusetts hospital battling post-op pain without using opiates

Taking narcotics after surgery is often the easiest, most effective way to tackle pain, but for many people it's also a gateway to opioid abuse.

In a recent study, 75% of heroin users in New England said their addictions started with prescription drugs. Now a surgeon at a Massachusetts hospital is on the leading edge of a solution that's helping eliminate the need for opioid prescriptions after surgery. Click here to read the WCVB ABC 5 news story.

Baltimore to get more federal help on heroin overdoses

By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun


The Baltimore-Washington area will participate in a $2.5 million White House initiative announced Monday to combat a persistent rise in heroin deaths over recent years.

Michael Botticelli, the White House drug czar, said the new Heroin Response Strategy will increase collaboration between public health and law enforcement agencies to track and, it is hoped, interrupt the flow of the deadly drug.

The program is part of $13.4 million in funding for areas of the country that have been hit particularly hard by heroin. Last year, 578 people died of heroin overdoses in Maryland, more than double the number several years ago.

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Officer Saves Howard County Woman's Life with Narcan

By Elizabeth Janney, Patch Staff

Howard County police recently began carrying Narcan, which reverses effects of heroin overdoses.
Seven people have died from heroin-related deaths so far in 2015 and last week, a police officer helped prevent the number from ticking up to eight, the Howard County Police Department reports.

A police officer revived a 31-year-old woman in Elkridge who was unconscious and not breathing from a heroin overdose, police reported. The officer administered Narcan, a nasal mist that temporarily counters the effects of opioids, according to the report.

The woman survived and was taken to a local hospital for treatment, the report said.

So far this year, there have been 15 nonfatal and seven fatal overdoses in Howard County, according to the report.

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Heroin: a public health emergency

By Leana Wen, Baltimore Health Commissioner
As published in The Baltimore Sun


As an ER doctor, I have treated hundreds of patients who were dying of heroin overdose, and I know that it is a disease that claims lives. As a family member of loved ones who struggled with addiction, I have seen that heroin isn't just an individual disease; it's a family disease. As a public health official in Baltimore, where an estimated 19,000 of our residents use heroin, I have witnessed how heroin ties into the very fabric of our city; it's a community disease.

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Fighting the disease of addiction - Why do we treat addiction differently than we do almost any other disease?

Editorial, The Baltimore Sun

If you have a heart attack, the ER physician doesn't just give you an aspirin and send you home. If your kidneys fail, doctors don't throw up their hands and discharge you because they're short on dialysis machines. But if you're lucky enough to survive a heroin overdose, you might have to wait weeks to get an appointment at a drug treatment center, and even then you're as likely as not to be told there are no beds available.

Heroin addiction is an illness, but we respond to it differently than we do almost any other disease. Cities like Baltimore pay a high price for that failure because prompt access to substance abuse treatment is essential if lives are to be saved. That is why city Health Commissioner Leana Wen this week unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat the epidemic of drug overdose deaths in Baltimore based on around-the-clock treatment options for addicts that ensures everyone who needs help can get it without delay.

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Baltimore's heroin task force has a $20M proposal to reduce overdose deaths

By Sarah Gantz, Baltimore Business Journal

Around-the-clock addiction treatment services and a public outreach campaign aimed at addressing stigma around addiction are among a Baltimore task force's recommendations for tackling the city’s heroin crisis.

Baltimore's Heroin Treatment and Prevention Task Force on Monday unveiled a $20 million, 10-point proposal for curbing heroin and opioid overdose deaths and expanding treatment support options. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in October convened the 35-member group of public health leaders, addiction experts and other stakeholders to draft a city-wide strategy for addressing opioid addiction.

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More deadly doses of heroin flood market

By Elisha Sauers, Capital Gazette


Blue Magic, a name given to some heroin, started circulating in the area last summer.

Charles "Buck" Hedrick, who manages a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence program in Baltimore, said drug dealers didn't know what was in it, but knew it was powerful: Some of their customers were dying.

As a marketing strategy, dealers labeled the drugs with a blue marker so customers could recognize the extra-strength dope. And when it started getting a bad rap, sellers repackaged it with different names.

Blue Magic turned out to contain fentanyl, an opiate stronger than morphine typically administered to patients in extreme pain or recovering from surgery.

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Why are Maryland teens turning to heroin?

By Allison Eatough, Chesapeake Family Magazine

Recovering heroin addict Conner Ostrowski grew up in what his mother calls a "stereotypical suburban household" in Anne Arundel County.

The former Linthicum resident is part of a close-knit family. He excelled in academics and athletics, consistently making the honor roll and wrestling for North County High School. And he dreamed of one day becoming a disc jockey and sound and lighting expert.

But four years ago, when Conner was 16, he injured his back during a wrestling match. Soon after, and without his parents' knowledge, someone shared a prescription pain pill with him. That's when his descent into heroin addiction began.

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Heroin overdose deaths quadruple, use spikes across U.S.

NBC Nightly News (7/7, story 6, 2:35, Holt, 7.86M) reported that the CDC released “alarming new numbers...showing a dramatic rise in the heroin epidemic,” with heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupling between 2002 and 2013, and the number of women using the drug doubling. Click on the link to see the news story.

The Washington Post (7/8, Bernstein, 5.03M) “To Your Health” blog reports that the majority of “people who became addicted to heroin used other drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.” However, those “who are addicted to prescription opioid pain-killers are 40 times more likely than those who aren’t to become addicted to heroin, by far the greatest risk factor of any examined.” The blog adds that Dr. Frieden “called for more judicious use of the pain-killers by physicians who, he said, should seek other ways to manage some forms of chronic pain.”

USA Today (7/8, Szabo, 5.01M) reports that Dr. Frieden “said he’s alarmed that the reach of heroin is expanding – a trend that could make it harder to fight the epidemic.” Dr. Frieden noted that “as heroin addiction deepens, many users turn to needles for a more intense high.” That, in turn, “has fueled a new set of public health problems, including an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana and a resurgence of hepatitis C nationwide, Frieden said.”

The AP (7/8, Stobbe) reports that “heroin has become a popular alternative” to prescription opioid pain medications. “It is essentially the same chemical as that in the prescription painkillers, but it costs roughly five times less on the street, said...Frieden,” who further explained, “An increasing number of people are primed for heroin use because they were addicted to an opioid painkiller.”

The Hill (7/8, Hardiman, 533K) reports that in a statement, Dr. Frieden “said it would require an ‘all-of-society’ effort to halt the epidemic, including a push ‘to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin.’”

The NPR (7/8, Harris, 1.52M) “Shots” blog reports that the overall “death toll” from heroin overdoses “has skyrocketed in recent years. It’s up from 1,800 in 2001, according to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.” The blog points out that “in 2013 alone, more than 8,200 Americans died of heroin overdoses.” Dr. Frieden said, “As a doctor who started my career taking care of patients with HIV and other complications from injection drugs, it’s heartbreaking to see injection drug use making a comeback in the US.”

The Los Angeles Times (7/8, Girion, 4.03M) reports in “Science Now” that the “Vital Signs” report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that “2.6 out of every 1,000 US residents 12 and older used heroin in the years 2011 to 2013,” representing “a 63% increase in the rate of heroin use since the years 2002 to 2004.” Over that same period of time, “the rate of heroin abuse or dependence climbed 90%...according to the study by researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Rising cost of overdose treatment drug alarms city

By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun


Baltimore officials and others are alarmed at a nearly a fourfold jump in the cost of a drug used to save the lives of people who have overdosed on heroin — a price spike that has prompted calls for state and federal action.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana S. Wen says a leading manufacturer of naloxone has since spring raised the 10-dose cost from $97 to $370, with the most recent hike coming last week.

In a letter this week to a congressional committee, Wen said the increase by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals has contributed to a near-doubling in the overall cost of delivering more than 1,000 doses annually of naloxone, which she calls a "miracle drug" for preventing overdose deaths.

"This means we can only save half the lives of patients we were able to before," Wen told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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Baltimore health officials concerned about Fentanyl-related overdose deaths


BALTIMORE —Baltimore City health officials are launching a public education campaign in response to a surge in Fentanyl-laced heroin deaths in the city.

According to Baltimore Health Department figures, 39 people died from Fentanyl-linked overdoses in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 14 at the same point last year. There were 303 overdose deaths in Baltimore in 2014.

“Fentanyl-laced heroin is killing individuals in our city,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen in a statement. “Nearly every day in Baltimore, one person dies from drug overdose. This is a public health emergency. It is our obligation to educate and save lives.”

Health officials are warning users that they may unknowingly be buying Fentanyl-based heroin or buying what they think is heroin, but may be Fentanyl without any heroin.

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Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin surge

By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun


Amid a statewide surge in overdoses, Baltimore health officials announced a campaign Monday to tell heroin users that the drug they buy on the street could contain the much more potent painkiller fentanyl.

The synthetic opiod, which federal officials say is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, is blamed in the deaths of hundreds of drug users nationwide since 2013. Health, law enforcement and counselors began issuing warnings more than a year ago, but have not been able to stem overdoses.

In Maryland, fentanyl-related deaths now account for nearly a quarter of drug overdose deaths, up from 4 percent two years ago. The percentage now eclipses deaths related to cocaine and alcohol, and is gaining on prescription drugs.

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