New Dangerous Opioid Mix Called “Gray Death” Blamed for Deaths in Three States

Concrete
A new combination of opioids, known as “Gray Death,” is being blamed for deaths in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio, the Associated Press reports. The combination includes heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700. “Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” said Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kilcrease said people using the drug are not aware of its ingredients or their concentrations. Simply touching the powder can put a person at risk, she added. Gray death looks like concrete mix. It varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder, the article notes. It is much more potent than heroin, according to the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. People use the drug by injecting, swallowing, smoking or snorting it.
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Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence

Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence
Spending by health insurance companies increased more than 1,300 percent over four years for patients with an opioid abuse or dependence diagnosis, NPR reports. Spending on insurers’ payments to hospitals, labs, treatment centers and other medical providers for these patients rose from $32 million to $446 million between 2011 and 2015. Insurers spent an average of $3,435 on patients annually, but for those with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse, they spent $19,333. Much of that spending was due to emergency room visits and lab tests. The findings come from Fair Health, a nonprofit databank that provides health industry cost information.
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Researchers Hope to Reduce Opioid Abuse in Pain Patients Through Social Media

Researchers Hope to Reduce Opioid Abuse in Pain Patients Through Social Media
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will study whether social media can help reduce opioid abuse in patients with chronic pain, according to Science . UCLA’s Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) program is designed to use the power of social media to improve public health. In a separate study, HOPE researchers found social media can be helpful in increasing HIV testing. In a 12-week pilot project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, HOPE researchers will recruit about 60 patients with chronic pain who are on long-term opioid therapy and have reported other behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse that put them at high risk for addiction. Each participant will be asked to log into a private Facebook group. They can share posts, comments, pictures and private messages among themselves, and with eight peer role models who are also on long-term opioid therapy. The researchers will...
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Opioid Abuse Could Be Costing Employers as Much as $8 Billion Annually

Opioid Abuse Could Be Costing Employers as Much as $8 Billion Annually
Opioid abuse could be costing U.S. employers up to $8 billion annually, according to a report by the benefits firm Castlight Health . Employees who abuse opioids cost employers almost twice as much in healthcare expenses on average, compared with workers who don’t abuse opioids, the report found. The average healthcare cost for employees who abuse opioids is $19,450, compared with $10,853 for employees who do not abuse opioids. Castlight recommends employers, especially those with large and diverse workforces, analyze where lower back pain and depression—two conditions closely associated with opioid abuse—are most prevalent in their company. The company notes that employers may want to guide some employees away from unnecessary back surgery, which comes with opioid prescriptions. The report notes that “targeted educational content could help inform employees suffering from lower back pain that an opioid may not be the wisest option for them, or that physical therapy benefits...
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Addiction Once Again a Major Issue in Presidential Election

Addiction Once Again a Major Issue in Presidential Election
Addiction, which was a major issue leading up to the presidential primary in New Hampshire, is once again a key topic in the election, The Wall Street Journal reports. Both elected officials and advocacy groups are working to ensure that addiction stays an important issue in the race, the article notes. Recently, addiction was in the political spotlight when President Obama spoke at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit about steps his administration is taking to combat the opioid epidemic. “The breadth of the problem is demanding that candidates for president put it on their front burner,” said Republican Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who represents the group that organized the summit, Operation Unite. “We need a national program, a campaign if you will, that comprehensively deals with the problem.” Last week the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released a poll that found 43 percent of...
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Opioid Abuse Leading to More Children Sent Into Foster Care

Opioid Abuse Leading to More Children Sent Into Foster Care
More children are being sent into foster care as a result of the abuse of heroin and opioid painkillers, The Wall Street Journal reports. Officials say opioid abuse is straining child welfare agencies. The number of children in foster care in the United States rose 3.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, reaching 415,129 in September 2014. While national data do not measure how many children arrive in foster care because of their parents’ drug use, some state and local officials say opioid addiction is a likely factor in the increase. Experts tell the newspaper the overprescribing of opioid painkillers, along with a cheap and plentiful supply of heroin, has contributed to the crisis. A Vermont state survey found opioid use was a factor in 80 percent of cases in which a child under age 3 was taken into custody. Governor Peter Shumlin said the number of children under the custody...
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