Percentage of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin Tripled in Five Years

Percentage of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin Tripled in Five Years
A new government report finds 25 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2015 involved heroin, triple the percentage in 2010. The National Center for Health Statistics found the percentage of overdose deaths from prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone decreased to 24 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2010, Reuters reports. Cocaine was associated with 13 percent of overdose deaths in 2015, up from 11 percent in 2010. The four states with the highest drug overdose deaths in 2015 were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Overdose death rates increased for all groups, but the sharpest increase was among those ages 55 to 64.
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California Reports More Young Adults Ending Up in ER Because of Heroin

California Reports More Young Adults Ending Up in ER Because of Heroin
A growing number of Californians in their 20s are ending up in the emergency room because of heroin, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. In the first three months of last year, 412 adults ages 20 to 29 went to the emergency room in California because of heroin—double the number for the same period in 2012. While heroin-related emergency room visits increased among all ages, the largest increase was among young adults. According to Dr. Crescenzo Pisano, an internist who specializes in addiction and addiction medicine at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro, young people start misusing prescription opioids and then turn to heroin. “People price themselves out of range,” he said. “Relatively affluent, well-to-do kids start stealing and find heroin is cheaper to use.”
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Heroin Tops the List of Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Overdose Deaths

Heroin Tops the List of Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Overdose Deaths
Heroin was the drug most often involved in overdose deaths between 2010 and 2014, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other drugs commonly involved in overdoses included oxycodone, methadone, morphine, morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). More than 47,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2014, up from more than 38,000 in 2010. “Opioids are responsible for a disproportionate number of injuries and deaths,” Dr. Caleb Alexander, a co-director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, told ABC News. “It’s only natural that policymakers and public health officials focus on opioids.”
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Powerful Heroin Substitute Called Pink Being Sold Online

Powerful Heroin Substitute Called Pink Being Sold Online
An increasingly popular synthetic opioid known as Pink is being sold online, according to NBC News. Only four states—Florida, Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia—have banned the drug, also known as U-47700. Pink is eight times stronger than heroin, the article notes. The drug, along with other synthetic opioids, is being shipped into the United States from China and other countries. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told NBC News it is aware of confirmed deaths associated with the drug in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Last month the agency gave notice of its intent to classify the drug temporarily as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The temporary ban gives the DEA three years to research whether the drug should be permanently controlled.
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One Million People Use Heroin in U.S., Almost Triple the 2003 Rate

One Million People Use Heroin in U.S., Almost Triple the 2003 Rate
An estimated one million people used heroin in the United States in 2014, almost triple the 2003 rate, according to a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Heroin-related deaths have increased five-fold since 2000, the World Drug Report 2016 found. Heroin use is at its highest level in 20 years in the United States, CBS News reports. The report calls the rise in heroin use in some regions of the world alarming. “While the challenges posed by new psychoactive substances remain a serious concern, heroin continues to be the drug that kills the most people. This resurgence must be addressed urgently,” the report concludes. Western and Central Europe have also been hit hard by heroin use and overdose deaths in the last two years, the report notes. There was a sharp global decrease in opium production in 2015, but that is unlikely to lead to major...
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Canadian Doctor to U.S. Senators: Consider Legally Prescribed Heroin to Fight Abuse

Canadian Doctor to U.S. Senators: Consider Legally Prescribed Heroin to Fight Abuse
The head of a Canadian clinic that provides legally prescribed heroin to people addicted to the drug told U.S. senators this week the strategy can reduce the risk of serious illness and premature death, while reducing drug-related crime. Dr. Scott MacDonald, lead physician at the Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, Canada, told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that providing legal heroin to people addicted to the drug can improve their mental and physical health, according to U.S. News & World Report. “While methadone and buprenorphine are effective treatments for many people and should remain first line responses, no single treatment is effective for all individuals,” MacDonald said in his testimony. “Every person left untreated is at high risk for serious illness and premature death.” The Crosstown Clinic is the only place in Canada that provides legal heroin, called diacetylmorphine. The clinic also provides hydromorphone, a...
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New Partnership Helps 17 States Share Information to Fight Heroin Crisis

New Partnership Helps 17 States Share Information to Fight Heroin Crisis
A new federally funded program is partnering with police departments and health departments in 17 states in the northeast and beyond to share information quickly to respond to the heroin crisis. The new initiative, known as the Heroin Response Strategy, funded by the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, has hired drug enforcement officers and public health analysts in each of those states to share information on drug trafficking and drug overdoses. “There are thousands of police departments across the country, and they all face the challenge of opioid abuse—pills, heroin, fentanyl or a combination—which together are the leading cause of preventable death,” said Chauncey Parker, Director of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, one of the seven HIDTA programs working together in the Heroin Response Strategy. A key challenge has been the lack of a structured way for police departments to efficiently share information about drug trafficking across the region. HIDTA...
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Heroin Overdoses Becoming More Visible in Public Spaces

Heroin Overdoses Becoming More Visible in Public Spaces
The heroin epidemic is becoming increasingly visible as more people who use the drug are overdosing in public spaces, The New York Times reports. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, several people overdosed in the bathrooms of a church, leading church officials to close the bathrooms to the public. “We weren’t medically equipped or educated to handle overdoses, and we were desperately afraid we were going to have something happen that was way out of our reach,” said the Reverend Joseph O. Robinson, Rector of Christ Church Cambridge. Police in many towns find people who have been using heroin unconscious or dead in cars, fast-food restaurant bathrooms, on public transportation, and in parks, hospitals and libraries. Some people who use heroin seek out towns where emergency medical workers carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (Narcan), the article notes. They know “if they do overdose, there’s a good likelihood that when police respond, they’ll be...
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Virtual Reality Tested for Heroin Addiction Treatment

Virtual Reality Tested for Heroin Addiction Treatment
Researchers at the University of Houston are testing whether virtual reality can be used to treat people addicted to heroin. They will navigate a simulated house party with stimuli that evoke drug cravings, according to Reuters. The virtual reality program includes two environments. One is a house party where heroin is snorted, and the other is a party where the drug is injected. The program uses an eight-camera infrared system. It projects life-sized 3-D avatars and environments. Participants interact with them in a chamber known as a “heroin cave,” the article notes. Details that could trigger a heroin craving include an open pizza box on the back patio, and cash on a table next to a cigarette lighter. “In traditional therapy we role-play with the patient but the context is all wrong,” said one of the study leaders, Patrick Bordnick. “They know they’re in a therapist’s office and the drug isn’t...
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Mayor of Ithaca, NY Wants to Host Nation’s First Supervised Heroin Injection Facility

Mayor of Ithaca, NY Wants to Host Nation’s First Supervised Heroin Injection Facility
The mayor of Ithaca, New York says he wants his city to be the first in the United States to host a supervised injection facility for people who use heroin, the Associated Press reports. The facility would allow people to inject heroin under the care of a nurse, without getting arrested. The mayor, Svante Myrick, is the son of a man who was addicted to drugs, the article notes. Myrick lived in a homeless shelter and went to Cornell University. Four years ago he became Ithaca’s youngest mayor, at age 24. “I have watched for 20 years this system that just doesn’t work,” Myrick told the AP. “We can’t wait anymore for the federal government. We have people shooting up in alleys. In bathroom stalls. And too many of them are dying.” Myrick said the injection facility would be part of a holistic approach to drug abuse in Ithaca that includes...
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