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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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) .

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.

Teen Opioid Prescriptions Raise Risk of Later Opioid Misuse

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse Dec. 28, 2015

Teens who received a prescription for opioid pain medication by Grade 12 were at 33 percent increased risk of misusing an opioid between ages 19 and 25. Strikingly, the risk was found to be most concentrated among teens who would be expected to be at low risk of drug misuse.

These findings add weight to current concerns about opioid prescribing across healthcare settings and suggest the need for caution among providers working with pediatric populations and providing advice/education about these substances when prescribing. Young patients who are already wary of illicit drug use may be particularly receptive to cautionary messages about misusing opioids.

Click here to read more.

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.

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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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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Local officers trained to administer Narcan (Police issued anti-overdose drug)

By Christopher Ullery, Staff Writer, SoMdNews Online

The first class of 15 officers, a mix of Charles County sheriff’s officers and La Plata Police Department officers, was trained to administer an anti-opioid overdose drug Thursday at the sheriff’s office district station in Waldorf.

Eventually, Sheriff Troy Berry (D) intends to have every officer trained to properly administer Naloxone, a drug which can neutralize the effects of an overdose in minutes.

“It’s just another tool in the tool box for our officers,” La Plata Police Chief Carl Schinner said. “Anything we can do to help save a life, we’re going to do.”

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Drugs on Baltimore streets could keep it high 'for a year,' Batts says

By Justin George and Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun


With April's looting, an extraordinary amount of drugs were stolen from pharmacies — more than initially believed, officials said Wednesday.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts on Wednesday said police were working with federal partners such as the Drug Enforcement Administration to seize more than 175,000 "units," or doses, of prescription drugs looted from 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics when unrest erupted April 27, in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody weeks earlier.

"There's enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year," Batts said. "That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore."

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Painkillers: Seeing Our Opioid Addiction Crisis For What It Is

By Janna Malamud Smith, Cognoscenti, WBUR

Twice lately, people I really like have taken me aside to tell me devastating stories of their family members who are addicted to opioids — oxycodone, hydrocodone and the like. I imagine you have heard many such stories yourself.

It’s so saddening — and maddening: the way someone becomes a stranger — living for the next pill, or, unable to afford them anymore, moves on to heroin. You love your … wife, daughter, son, father, husband, mother sister, brother, friend … but you hate what’s happened to them, and you almost can’t remember who they were before they changed into their evil twins. Before they stopped pulling their weight. Before they started doing stuff you didn’t know they had in them — robbing their grandmother’s jewelry box, terrorizing intimates with crazy rage or just freezing out everyone around them.

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We can save lives now

By Leana Wen, Op-Ed, The Baltimore Sun

Heroin is not a new problem to Baltimore. Like many cities across the U.S., we have struggled with the heroin epidemic for years. Heroin ties into the very fabric of our city and cannot be separated from the problems of violence, mass incarceration and rampant health disparities.

This week, a new report came out that shows we are going in the wrong direction with overdose deaths. Last year, 303 people died from drug and alcohol overdoses in Baltimore City. This is a 23 percent increase from 2013. That year, the number of people dying from overdoses — 246 — was already higher than the number who died from homicide.

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DEA Issues Nationwide Alert on Fentanyl as Threat to Health and Public Safety

(WASHINGTON) - The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues/compounds. Fentanyl is commonly laced in heroin, causing significant problems across the country, particularly as heroin abuse has increased. This alert was issued through the multi-agency El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) to all U.S. law enforcement.

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