Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study. Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found. Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports. “I’m cautiously optimistic that prescribing clinicians are positively reacting to the opioid crisis and therefore prescription opioids are contributing less to the overall drug epidemic,” Dr. Hernandez –Boussard said in a news release. The findings are published in Health Affairs .
A new study finds the percentage of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for prescription opioids rose seven-fold between 1995 and 2015. Researchers from Columbia University analyzed data from nearly 37,000 drivers who died within one hour of a motor vehicle crash. They found 24 percent had drugs in their system, of which 3 percent were prescription opioids, HealthDa y reports. Among drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids, 30 percent also had high blood alcohol levels, and 67 percent had traces of other drugs. The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health . “Prescription opioids as potent pain medications can cause drowsiness and impair cognitive functions. The 700 percent rise in the prevalence of prescription opioids detected in fatally injured drivers is cause for great concern,” lead researcher Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, said in a statement.
Some high schools are teaching teens about the dangers of heroin and prescription opioids. One school in West Virginia has a drug-free club, which meets to learn about drug use and addiction. “All of our students have a story of somebody in their family who is an addict or a friend of a family member or something of that nature,” Erin Parsons, a history teacher at John Marshall High School in Glen Dale, West Virginia, told U.S. News & World Report . The more than 300 club members go on field trips and take part in community service projects. At Bucks County Technical High School in Pennsylvania, students created a public service announcement featuring the mother of a person addicted to heroin. Some schools around the country are showing the film “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” produced by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
As the Obama Administration and public health officials push for a reduction in prescription opioids, they are facing some resistance from both patients and doctors, experts tell The New York Time s. Insurance coverage for alternative treatments is inconsistent, the article notes. The plans may not cover all treatments, or they may impose strict limits on coverage. Alternative pain treatments include acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, massage, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. Medicaid does cover physical therapy for patients who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but the level of coverage varies by state. Matt Salo, Executive Director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, says benefits for alternative treatments are often the first to be eliminated when budgets are cut, because they are considered optional. A complicating factor is the widely varying amounts of evidence about the effectiveness of these treatments. Many patients resist nondrug treatments for...