This Week's News in Substance Use: 12/1/17

The Health 202: This Hotel CEO Thinks He Can Fix America's Opioid [Misuse] Problem , The Washington Post

“Gary Mendell, the chairman of HEI Hotels & Resorts who lost his son to drug addiction six years ago, has convinced four of the five major U.S. insurers – Aetna, UnitedHealth, Cigna and several of the Blue Cross plans – and a dozen smaller companies to sign onto eight principles of care for patients struggling with addiction.

“The hope is that these insurers, which cover a total of nearly 250 million patients, will jumpstart a new era for addiction treatment in the United States by making it easier for patients to access key medications proven effective in helping ease off opioids. The aim is also to direct these patients to the best doctors who use treatments actually backed by science.”

Kellyanne Conway Is Now America’s Opioid Czar , New York Magazine

“Andrew Kolodny, an opioid policy expert at Brandeis University, told BuzzFeed News that he sees Conway’s appointment as a ‘positive sign’ since ‘she is a high-profile figure in the administration.’ But Kolodny — and other opioid policy experts and stakeholders — were quick to note that Trump still hasn’t appointed anyone to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Which seems like something an administration that cared deeply about reducing the suffering caused by this epidemic would have bothered to do.”

Should Hospitals Be Punished for Post-Surgical Patients' Opioid Addiction? NPR

“Now, a handful of doctors and hospital administrators are asking, if an opioid addiction starts with a prescription after surgery or some other hospital-based care, should the hospital be penalized? As in: Is addiction a medical error along the lines of some hospital-acquired infections?

“Writing for the blog and journal Health Affairs, three physician-executives with the Hospital Corporation of America argue for calling it just that.”

Opioid Crisis Driven by Shady Drug Company Tactics, Investigators Say , Newsweek

“Many say the opioid crisis that has killed more than 183,000 Americans since 1999 is driven by crooked pharmaceutical executives who have done just about everything, legal or otherwise, to convince the public that opioid painkillers are safe. Even President Donald Trump, who recently declared the epidemic a public health emergency, said companies that make the potent and highly addictive painkillers are responsible for the surge in deaths.”

Where Is the Prevention in The President’s Opioid Report? The New York Times

“Though few children below middle-school age use or misuse opioids, some programs aimed at them can prevent their use at older ages, by identifying risk factors and countering them. For example, a favorable attitude toward substance use — either within the family or by children directly — increases the risk that a child will later get into trouble with addictive drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Other risk factors are family conflict, poor peer relationships or difficulty in school. Community characteristics like deterioration of physical infrastructure; high rates of mobility into and out of the area; and easy availability of opioids are also risk factors.”

No Family Is Safe from This Epidemic , The Atlantic

“If America is going to reverse this epidemic, we need to start treating it like the national emergency it really is. We need a call to arms like the one that led to our nation’s dramatic decrease in cigarette usage, or to the effective Mothers Against Drunk Driving movement. There are reasons to hope that public awareness of the opioid epidemic is finally beginning to catch up with the facts on the ground, but its defeat will only be possible through a concerted effort that includes full-spectrum prevention, stronger prescription-drug controls, more-robust law enforcement, and far more access to quality treatment. All of this will in turn require major increases in public resources.”

AG Jeff Sessions Announces New Tools to Address Opioid Epidemic , CBS News

“In a joint effort, the DOJ and DEA announced three new initiatives they say will help combat what Sessions considers ‘the worst drug crisis in American history.’

“The initiatives include:

  • Investments of $12 million in funding for state and local law enforcement partners to tackle heroin and methamphetamine issues
  • Restructuring of the DEA's Field Divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years, including opening up a new office in Louisville, Kentucky
  • New requirements for all federal prosecutors' offices to designate an Opioid Coordinator who will customize our anti-opioid strategy in every district in America.”
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