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This Week's News in Substance Use: 12/21/18

A Visual Journey Through Addiction, The New York Times

The opioid epidemic is devastating America. Overdoses have passed car crashes and gun violence to become the leading cause of death for Americans under 55. The epidemic has killed more people than H.I.V. at the peak of that disease, and its death toll exceeds those of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq combined. Funerals for young people have become common. Every 11 minutes, another life is lost.

So why do so many people start using these drugs? Why don’t they stop?

Welcome to The Church of Safe Injection: Clean Syringes Are Salvation and Membership May Help Skirt the Law, STAT

On an 11-degree night here this month, an unconventional mass was held outdoors, next to a 2017 Honda parked on a street corner.

The altar took the form of the small car’s hatchback trunk. The not-so-typical communion: sterile needles, the overdose antidote naloxone, and the rubber tourniquets used prior to drug injection. For shooting and mixing heroin hygienically, alcohol swabs and sterile water. For the cold, hand warmers and socks, and for the hungry, granola bars.

At the center of it all was Jesse Harvey, 26, a Portland-area peer recovery coach who is the founder of the Church of Safe Injection.

Pure Incompetence’: As Fatal Heroin Overdoses Exploded in Black Neighborhoods, D.C. Officials Ignored Life-Saving Strategies, The Washington Post

The District has consistently fallen short in its response to mounting opioid casualties, misspending millions of federal grant dollars and ignoring lifesaving strategies that have been widely adopted elsewhere, a Washington Post investigation found.

D.C. officials distributed naloxone — an overdose antidote that laypeople can use to prevent deaths — at a far lower rate than other cities with comparable opioid problems. As fatal overdoses peaked last year, Baltimore handed out more than four times as many naloxone kits per capita as the District; and Philadelphia, more than three times as many, according to city data. Officials at the nonprofit groups that collaborated with the District on its naloxone campaign called it “woefully inadequate” and “disastrous.”

Opioid Crisis: The Lawsuits That Could Bankrupt Manufacturers and Distributors, CBS News

Mike Moore says he's, "just a country lawyer from Mississippi." But this country lawyer has engineered two of the most lucrative legal settlements in American history. As Mississippi's attorney general, he engineered the historic 1998 settlement under which Big Tobacco paid billions to address smoking-related health issues. In 2015, he convinced BP to settle multibillion-dollar lawsuits over its huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now Mike Moore has taken aim at the manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers, claiming they should pay for the epidemic of addiction and death that has swept this nation. As you'll hear in a moment, he has powerful new evidence that he says proves that states like Ohio, among the hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic, should collect billions from all the companies he's suing.

To Improve Addiction Treatment, Rate The Providers, USA Today

Addiction is a treatable disease with success rates comparable to other chronic illnesses. But the treatment system for addiction is broken, fragmented and centered on outdated models. Only one in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives any treatment at all — and far fewer receive treatment based on proven research.

This is unacceptable. Access to legitimate addiction treatment shouldn’t be a roll of the dice depending on where you live, what kind of insurance you have or what hotline you happened to call for help. That’s why I founded Shatterproof, a nonprofit organization focused on ensuring that every American with a substance use disorder has access to treatment based upon proven research, without being judged or stigmatized, just like those receiving treatment for any other disease.

Several key tactics would drive significant change in this area. One is a rating system that assesses treatment providers based on a set of established criteria, and then makes those assessments available to consumers and insurers.