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Heroin: Barriers to Treatment; Stories; FDA approves Auto-Injector

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Heroin: Barriers to Treatment; Stories; FDA approves Auto-Injector

heroin and syringeI tuned into the news this morning just as a newscaster was talking about a New York state heroin task force. Just last month the New York Senate announced the joint task force on heroin and opioid addiction, which several states seem to be doing. It seems that not a day goes by without us being bombarded by news of this scourge.

That was after an incisive article appeared on the barriers that heroin addicts face in trying to get treatment, from not finding available beds in treatment centers, to not having insurance to cover admission, to being discharged before getting the full treatment because they lack the funds. One problem is that treatment for the disease is not categorized as “critical for medical necessity.” Yet when addicts relapse, they often use such the same high dose they were up to before that they die. Another article I read on this same topic found that the sister of one addict was only able to get him into treatment by saying that her brother was using heroin and drinking. He received 17 days of treatment through county funding but when that ran out and he was released, he overdosed and died.

There’s a story making the rounds about a nurse who got hooked on opioids and then moved to heroin. It’s the second nurse I’ve interviewed this year who found herself in this mess. Nurse Tammy got a prescription for Vicodin after the birth of her son and continued taking pills to relieve stress. Then she stole prescriptions from patients, and after that she turned to heroin.

Her addiction nearly cost her everything, she says. Her husband divorced her, she couldn’t see her kids for two years, and her sister testified against her in court. She still can only see her children in supervised visits. Tammy’s been clean for two years. She’s an articulate, bright, middle-class Mom, so it’s a powerful story on how addiction can happen to anyone and the depths to which an addict can sink. The picture of her driving to a decrepit part of town to show where she used to travel to buy her drugs is eye-opening.

And whether or not you’re a fan of actor Russell Brand, he told a powerful story about his heroin addiction on a recent Oprah Prime program. (Tammy appeared on that same show.) One of his main points was that he used because he felt inadequate, was trying to “fill up” whatever was missing, and drugs helped him do that. You remember that it did the trick for awhile, he said (how drugs imprint on your brain?), and that’s why people relapse. He hopes “for a more compassionate perception of those struggling with drug addiction.” he said.

In March, an MBRC alumnus in recovery sent Joan this link about heroin overdoses in an Eastern town near him. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that an ER in Camden, one of the poorest towns in my state, experienced 15 overdoses in one day, due to the bad batch that was circulating. And to think, Asbury Park, where I went to high school for the first two years, started a controversy when it did not want its EMTs to carry Naloxone that helps save lives after heroin overdoses. They were worried about liability. Luckily, that edict was quickly reversed, but I’ve read about other towns arguing about the same controversy. In a non-controversial move, early this month the FDA approved an auto-injector for naloxone. Kudos to the FDA on this–approval was obtained via the fast-track process.



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