Alcohol: America’s #1 Addiction Problem

Alcoholism
More than two million Americans are addicted to opioids, ranging from the illegal drugs heroin and fentanyl to the prescription medications OxyContin and Vicodin, yet eight times as many people misuse or are addicted to a substance that is more widely available and easier to access. This substance is alcohol. Despite the fact that it has largely retreated from public consciousness in the context of the current opioid epidemic, research shows that rates of alcohol misuse and addiction are on the rise. The Rates Continue To Climb Recent reports indicate that nearly 16 million people ages 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), better known as alcohol addiction. This represents an almost 50 percent increase from figures reported just 10 years prior. Additionally, the number of people who engage in high-risk drinking (more than five drinks at a given time for men, four for women) increased by nearly...
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Understanding the Difference between Physical Dependence and Addiction

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In a recent hearing before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic and what his agency is doing to address it. While Dr. Gottlieb is not the first to note the massive scale of this crisis, he did bring up one often-overlooked component of its much-needed solution – distinguishing between an opioid addiction and a physical dependence on opioids. Although frequently conflated, differentiating between these two conditions is essential to break the stigma associated with what has proven to be the most effective form of opioid addiction treatment: medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a treatment approach that combines the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine with behavioral counseling. To make progress in ending the opioid epidemic and help people with addiction, families, health professionals and policymakers must understand and appreciate the important difference between physical dependence and...
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Kellyanne Conway Will Oversee White House Response to Opioid Epidemic

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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will lead the White House response to the opioid epidemic, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced. Sessions said Conway will be charged with helping change the perception about opioids and reducing addictions and deaths, Newsweek reports. Conway, a lawyer, has no formal experience in drug policy or law enforcement, the article notes. Before working for the Trump Administration, she had her own polling company. Conway has promoted prevention programs as a way to combat drug use. In October, Conway told Fox News, “The best way to stop people from dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place. That’s a big core message for our youth.”
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Veterans Especially Hard Hit by Opioid Epidemic

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The opioid epidemic has taken an especially heavy toll on U.S. veterans, Reuters reports. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of opioid painkillers. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the highest risk of opioid addiction, federal data indicates. Senator John McCain has sponsored the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which would fund research to help Veterans Administration (VA) doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain. The bill is stalled in Congress, the article notes. “The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said McCain, a Vietnam veteran. The VA system has treated 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, according to a department spokesman. The Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has started testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency...
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Senators: Repeal Law That Impedes DEA’s Ability to Crack Down on Opioid Distribution

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Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would repeal a law they say hampers efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic. According to a report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes , the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act impeded the DEA’s authority to freeze suspicious shipments of opioids in order to reduce the flow of painkillers to the black market. CNN reports Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia have called for the repeal of the legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2016. The law passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities,” McCaskill said in a statement. “I’ll be introducing legislation that repeals...
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President Asked to Formally Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

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Ten Democratic senators sent President Trump a letter asking him to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, USA Today reports. Trump announced in August he was declaring a national emergency, but he has not yet taken formal steps to do so. If he does officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, then FEMA can make money available to states. States could also request aid, and public health workers could be redeployed to fight the epidemic. “Regardless of whether you choose to declare a state of emergency, continued inaction on this issue is deeply concerning,” the senators wrote. “In order to effectively treat this crisis with the urgency it demands, we believe you must take action immediately to expand treatment capacity, increase prevention efforts (including prescriber education initiatives), improve data sharing, and support detection and interdiction efforts to address the supply side of this epidemic – all recommendations...
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President Has Not Yet Taken Action to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

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Although President Trump announced in August that he was declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, he has not yet taken formal steps to do so, CBS News reports. If he does officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, then FEMA can make money available to states, the article notes. States could also request aid, and public health workers could be redeployed to fight the epidemic. Dr. Cece McNamara Spitznas, who works in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “What the powers are related to a national emergency and trying to determine how would that apply in this situation — it requires a lot of specialist eyes to take a look. And a lot of people to sit around and sort of go through exactly what we can do legally, and across all the different parts. I think we’re in that phase of looking at...
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Prosecutors Fighting Opioids with Homicide-Related Charges Against Drug Dealers

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Some prosecutors are trying to fight the opioid epidemic with homicide-related charges against drug dealers in cases involving overdoses, The New York Times reports. These cases are difficult, prosecutors told the newspaper. They must use toxicology reports to tie medical evidence about the drugs to the fatal overdose. They also have to present evidence that a dealer knew the drugs’ risks but provided them anyway, which is hard to prove. Dealers’ lawyers argue their clients want to keep customers alive because it is good for business. Juries in these cases must determine whether drug dealers are predators or are addicted to drugs themselves. They also must decide if a dealer should be held responsible for the death of a person who took drugs they knew were dangerous.
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Opioid Epidemic Will Take Years to Resolve, Experts Warn

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The opioid epidemic took almost two decades to develop and it will take years to resolve, experts warn in a new report. The report, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, calls for reducing the number of unnecessary opioid prescriptions, according to HealthDay . The experts also recommend improving access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and increasing access to safe injection equipment to reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs. The experts say federal agencies should help states provide universal access to proven addiction treatment in hospitals, criminal justice settings and substance-use treatment centers. They also recommend mandatory pain-related education for those who deliver care to people with pain.
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Democrats Ask Drug Policy Office to Do More to Combat Opioid Epidemic

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Twenty Democratic senators are asking the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to do more to combat the opioid epidemic, according to the Associated Press. In a letter to ONDCP Acting Director Richard Baum, the senators urged the Trump Administration to implement recommendations made by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. The senators criticized an administration budget proposal that would cut almost $400 million from drug and mental health programs. They also voiced opposition to the Department of Justice’s increasing insistence on treating drug addiction as a criminal justice issue. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, recently pushed back its deadline to release a report. It was the second such delay for the commission. Senators who signed the letter included Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
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