News Roundup: May 24, 2018

By Roger Parloff

We’ve written a fair amount about the menace of illicit labs in China and elsewhere, producing potent and lethal synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and its analogs, often marketed over the darknet. Illicitly produced synthetic drugs now account for fully half the opioid overdose deaths in this country. Drug policy analyst Robert DuPont has warned us that “the global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs,” and that this fact is driving the future of the epidemic.

But what we’d frankly not known was that some of these illicit labs abroad are actually operating so openly that a couple Bloomberg journalists could go visit the owner of two of them at his home in Wuhan and casually inform him, to his apparent surprise, that he’d been indicted last September as a drug kingpin in Gulfport, Miss. We’d also not realized that China would react to all this by expressing offense that the US had “unilaterally” indicted one of its nationals and by arguing that the defendant had not violated any Chinese law—notwithstanding that he allegedly exported 22 drugs, including four fentanyl analogs, into the US, where they are banned. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 24, 2018”

Opioid Addiction Treatment Begins in the Emergency Room in a Camden, NJ, Hospital

04-20-18. Addiction Clinic 1
Patients at the Addiction Medicine Program of Cooper University Health Care’s Urban Health Institute (Photo: Cooper University Health Care)
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • At Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ, emergency room doctors treat five to 15 patients a day for opioid overdose.
  • When legally permitted, medically indicated, and the patient agrees, the hospital starts medication-assisted treatment in the emergency room.
  • The hospital has also launched its own addiction clinic, to ensure that patients have a viable medication-assisted treatment option.

Continue reading “Opioid Addiction Treatment Begins in the Emergency Room in a Camden, NJ, Hospital”

News Roundup: May 11, 2018

zach-guinta-51887-unsplash
Pregnant Women With Addiction (Photo: Zach Guinta, Unsplash)

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.] 

By Roger Parloff

In America, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal symptoms every 15 minutes. The focus of this issue of the newsletter are two complementary articles exploring, from different angles, the subject of pregnant mothers with addiction. The first, in the New York Times Magazine, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, provides a harrowing but sympathetic view from inside the chemically-hijacked minds of these mothers—who would be considered criminals in some states. The second, by KHN, discusses the conflicting results of research on the impact of opioid withdrawal at birth, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), on later child development. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 11, 2018”

Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use

DSC_0708
Robert L. DuPont, MD, at the 2018 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta in April.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • Psychiatrist Robert L. DuPont, MD, has been campaigning against opioid addiction for 50 years.
  • In a new Q&A, he says that the opioid crisis, “the defining epidemic of the 21st Century,” needs a “new narrative.”
  • “What’s killing these people is not just opioids. It’s opioids in combination with other drugs of abuse.”
  • “The global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs.”
  • “So illegal drug users … are able to buy more drugs, at higher potency, and lower prices, with more convenient delivery, than ever before.”
  • “We need to end the war between the treatment modalities.”

Continue reading “Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use”

News Roundup: May 4, 2018

charlotte-188983-unsplash
Credit: Charlotte (Unsplash)

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.]  

By Roger Parloff

This week’s New York Times Magazine story about Insys Therapeutics—whose founder and six top former officials have all been criminally charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—is a rip-roaring yarn, but one that also reveals severe problems with US pharmaceutical marketing practices. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 4, 2018”

Q&A Pt 2: Adam Bisaga, MD, on Opioid Disorder, Chronic Pain, Genetics, Kratom, and Stigma

Bisaga Image

QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • In Part 2 of an interview, addiction psychiatrist Adam Bisaga discusses his new book, Overcoming Opioid Addiction.
  • “Clearly there are patients that have some serious pain syndromes that respond well to painkillers. … Then you have patients who have many problems, [who] got put on painkillers [and use them] as a way of coping with all the other problems in life.”
  • “It’s not easy to tell, even for experts, but certainly for … primary care providers” when patients on prescription opioids are “doing well” and when they are not. “That’s an assumption that got us into trouble with the epidemic.”
  • Regarding ibogaine and kratom: “People with addiction have a propensity for magic thinking.”
  • In the US addiction is seen as a “more nonmedical kind of problem, a social problem, a moral problem,” than in Western Europe.

Continue reading “Q&A Pt 2: Adam Bisaga, MD, on Opioid Disorder, Chronic Pain, Genetics, Kratom, and Stigma”

Q&A Pt 1: Adam Bisaga, MD: Referring Patients to Most Opioid Treatment Centers Is Now Unethical

Bisaga Image

QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • In a two-part Q&A, addiction psychiatrist Adam Bisaga talks about his new book, Overcoming Opioid Addiction.
  • In Part 1, Bisaga argues why it has now become unethical to refer patients to most opioid treatment facilities in the US.
  • “This is the most lethal of all psychiatric disorders.”
  • “Up to two percent of [opioid use disorder] patients every year will die—one in 50. … So if you’re using for 10 years, your chance of dying is about one in five.”
  • “Right now, more than 50% of patients would not have a place to go for treatment, and many of those places that take patients do not offer effective treatment. Would that be acceptable for any other disorder?”

Continue reading “Q&A Pt 1: Adam Bisaga, MD: Referring Patients to Most Opioid Treatment Centers Is Now Unethical”

At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment

McEntire-FB-IMG-1524428039911
Recovery specialist Eric McIntire’s inmate ID card from before his recovery.
QUICK TAKEAWAY
    • Traditionally, hospitals stabilized and discharged overdose victims, leaving patients vulnerable to relapse.
    • Among overdose survivors who shoot heroin, half will eventually die of overdose.
    • NJ hospitals are now hiring ex-addicts, like Eric McIntire, to try to persuade overdose victims to seek treatment.

Continue reading “At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment”

News Roundup: April 17, 2018

roman-kraft-260082-unsplash
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

By Roger Parloff

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.]  

As of yesterday, 598 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, brought mainly by municipalities, were pending before US District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. That was a 38% increase over the number before him just 30 days earlier: 433.

Continue reading “News Roundup: April 17, 2018”

Thursday News Roundup

bank-phrom-352283-unsplash
Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

By Roger Parloff

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.]  

One of the most unsung acts of the Trump Administration could also be one of its most substantive in combatting the opioid epidemic. It’s a novel legal argument advanced in a letter from the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts to state health and public safety officials, which we’ll get to in a moment.

In other key developments in the past few days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services modified a controversial draft Medicare rule that was frightening chronic pain patients; the National Safety Council has issued a report card on states’ response to the crisis (thirteen are “improving,” 29 are “lagging,” and eight are “failing.”); there were new developments in the litigation (which, by my count, now includes more than 500 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and/or distributors); journals carry new articles on Hepatitis C, medical cannabis as an opioid substitute, how to treat gastrointestinal pain without opioids, and the growing use of prescription opioids in conjunction with something called “EDM.” Finally, a European Union publication tells a troubling story about “codeine abuse” in Europe. Continue reading “Thursday News Roundup”