This Week's News in Substance Use: 11/16/18

graphic of newspapers

New Jersey Sues Pharmaceutical Company Amid Spiraling Opioid Crisis, The New York Times

New Jersey officials, taking on one of the state’s core industries, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that manufactures opioids, accusing the pharmaceutical company of misleading patients about the addictive dangers posed by its drugs.

It was the first time that New Jersey has brought legal action against a company based in the state as it struggles to contain a spiraling opioid addiction crisis. And it comes at a time when state attorneys general across the country have intensified their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the epidemics of [drug misuse].

Gurbir Grewal, the New Jersey attorney general, said the subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, minimized the risks of opioid addiction in its marketing messages, targeted older people and other patients with little knowledge of opioids and mounted a campaign to “embed its deceptions about the viability of long-term opioid use in the minds of doctors and patients.”

Some Pharmacies Fail to Offer Easy Access to Naloxone, Or to Stock It, Despite Anti-Opioid Initiatives, STAT

In communities around the country, health officials and lawmakers have expanded access to naloxone — the opioid overdose reversal medication — by making it available at pharmacies without a prescription. One problem: Not all pharmacies have gotten on board.

In California, less than one-quarter of pharmacies surveyed said that customers could pick up naloxone without a prescription, even though they have been legally allowed to do so since January 2016, according to one new study.

Only about half of the pharmacies that said they would give out the medication had any nasal naloxone in stock.

A Reckoning with the Dark Side of the Restaurant Industry, The Wall Street Journal

When television personality and former chef Anthony Bourdain killed himself in June, Charles Ford, the general manager of a high-end restaurant in Chicago, took the news as a personal call to action: He would no longer be silent about his three suicide attempts.

“I don’t want to hide it anymore,” says Mr. Ford, 31, who says he slashed his wrists on three occasions between late 2015 and spring 2016. Workers with suicidal impulses and other emotional crises often hide their pain in his profession, Mr. Ford says. “We need to do everything we can to turn this around, and the first step is saying it out loud.”

Mr. Ford is one of many for whom Mr. Bourdain’s suicide was a reckoning with the dark side of the $800-billion restaurant business. Insiders have long worried privately about the lifestyle of people who work in the restaurant industry, which has one of the highest rates of illicit drug use and alcoholism and a tradition of masking mental-health struggles. A number of groups have begun exploring why the business has these problems and what might be done about them. The death of Mr. Bourdain—an idol for many in the culinary world—has given these efforts greater urgency.

Childbirth in The Age of Addiction: New Mom Worries About Maintaining Her Sobriety, NPR

An epidural is a form of regional anesthesia given via an injection of drugs into the space around the spinal cord. It’s usually a mix of two types of medication: a numbing agent, usually from the lidocaine family, and a painkiller, usually fentanyl.

The amount of fentanyl in the mix is limited, and little passes into the bloodstream, anesthesiologists say. But if a woman doesn’t want the fentanyl, it’s easy to formulate an epidural solution without it. Doctors either use a substitute medication or boost the concentration of the numbing agent.

“There’s no medical reason why someone should be forced to be exposed to opioids if they don’t want to,” says Dr. Kelly Pfeifer, a family physician and addiction expert who now works as director of high-value care at the California Health Care Foundation.

A Mother Who Lost Two Sons to Fentanyl Fights Back, Filter

Imagine the worst thing that could happen to you. Now imagine it happening twice.

That’s as close as I can get, as a parent, to describing what Carol Katz Beyer has been through. Between 2016 and 2017, two of her three sons lost their lives to fentanyl-involved overdose.

Carol is from suburban New Jersey, where she ran successful family healthcare and medical transportation businesses as well as raising her kids. She’s known to me as a formidable harm reduction advocate, through her leadership of Families for Sensible Drug Policy—a nonprofit and community that she co-founded with Barry Lessin.

She’s telling her story to convey how different policies and attitudes could have saved her sons’ lives. Both died in their late 20s: Bryan, a “teddy bear” with a contagious sense of humor; and Alex, a creative, sharp-dressing dreamer.

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