This Week's News in Substance Use: 12/14/18

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How Do You Recover After Millions Have Watched You Overdose? The New York Times

As opioid deaths have soared in recent years, police departments and strangers with cameras have started posting raw, uncensored images of drug users passed out with needles in their arms and babies in the back seats of their cars. The videos rack up millions of views and unleash avalanches of outrage. Then some other viral moment comes along, and the country clicks away.

But life is never the same for the people whose bleakest, most humiliating moments now live online forever. In interviews with The New York Times, they talked — some for the very first time — about the versions of themselves captured in the videos.

Emergency Rooms Once Offered Little for Drug Users. That’s Starting to Change, The Boston Globe

The woman came to Dr. Alister Martin three years ago, pleading for help. She was in the throes of opioid addiction, he in the first year of residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency department. “I don’t want this life,” she told him.

But when Martin asked his supervisor what he should do, the attending physician said to send her home. A world-famous Harvard-affiliated medical center, the biggest hospital in Massachusetts, offered nothing to this patient.

That was hardly unusual, then or now. For decades, programs for people with addiction have developed largely outside the medical system.

But the young Mass. General doctor was appalled. Martin had chosen to specialize in emergency medicine because ER doctors are the people who help anyone, anytime. “We’re in the middle of an opioid crisis,” he recalled thinking, “and we’re kicking people out of the emergency room.”

Why Would Anyone Cut Heroin with Fentanyl? It's Cheap, These Researchers Say, NBC News

There’s a shortage of heroin and a growing supply of cheap fentanyl from China and Mexico, Mars found. “There is demand for fentanyl but it can’t drive the market,” Mars told NBC News.

That’s because it’s impossible for buyers to tell ahead of time whether they are actually getting fentanyl. And the researchers also found that many opioid users are actively afraid of fentanyl and don’t want it, because they know about the danger of overdose.

“Whether or not they prefer fentanyl, users don’t have any influence over what drugs are being sold,” Mars said. “Without accurate information about these drugs, they can’t make an informed choice about what they are buying."

Cocaine Deaths Increase Amid Ongoing National Opioid Crisis, The Washington Post

Deaths from cocaine sharply increased from 2011 to 2016 across the United States, adding another dimension to a crisis of fatal overdoses that has primarily been driven by opioids, according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Overdose deaths from cocaine increased by about 18 percent each year during the five-year period. The data also showed a staggering rise in the number of deaths from fentanyl, with deaths from the powerful synthetic opioid increasing about 113 percent each year from 2013 to 2016.

Ugly Emails Reveal 'Conviction Without Facts' Regarding Substance Use Disorder, The Baltimore Sun

Recently, after lamenting the pointless restrictions that blocked access to the life-saving medical treatment my son desperately wanted and failed to get, I received an email that simply said: “Let the addicts die.” I would no sooner reply to this than I would go toe-to-toe with someone in the fits of road rage. While I resisted the urge to fight back, I am troubled by the mindset and realize it is shared by a larger portion of the population than I’d like to think.

Not only is this attitude mean-spirited, but also it represents what I see as “conviction without facts,” a frightening combination no matter the topic — and downright dangerous in regard to the opioid epidemic where pervasive stigma compromises life-saving treatment.

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