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This Week's News in Substance Use: 2/16/18

How A Police Chief, A Governor and A Sociologist Would Spend $100 Billion to Solve the Opioid Crisis, The New York Times

“The consensus of the experts was that any effective strategy should include funding for four major areas: treatment, harm reduction, and both demand- and supply-focused solutions. The answer above is an average, as our panelists disagreed about the best way to divide up the money they were considering.

“Our panel spent more money on treatment programs than anything else. (Over two million Americans are estimated to have a problem with opioids.) It was the top priority for more than 20 of the experts.

“There was substantial disagreement about whether to focus on treating addiction or on trying to prevent the addiction from forming in the first place by addressing the underlying social issues that allow opioid addiction to thrive.”

Surgeon General Offers Advice On Fighting Opioids, The Hill

“The nation’s top doctor offered advice for lawmakers Wednesday on how to help support long-term recovery for people with an addiction, as Congress examines how to curb the opioid epidemic plaguing the country.

“Connecting people with support services, such as food and housing, pays off, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday at an event hosted by The Hill.

“’We’ve got to be more innovative in terms of helping folks understand that providing all these services will increase their chances of success and ultimately lower cost,’ Adams said at the event, which was sponsored by Faces and Voices of Recovery and Indivior.

“’That’s what I want Congress to know, that’s what I want policymakers to know — we’re not throwing good money after bad; we’re actually getting a return on investment by wrapping people with the support services they need to be successful in recovery.’”

Opioid Makers Gave $10M to Advocacy Groups Amid Epidemic, Associated Press

“Companies selling some of the most lucrative prescription painkillers funneled millions of dollars to advocacy groups that in turn promoted the medications’ use, according to a report released Monday by a U.S. senator.

“The investigation by Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill sheds light on the opioid industry’s ability to shape public opinion and raises questions about its role in an overdose epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives. Representatives of some of the drugmakers named in the report said they did not set conditions on how the money was to be spent or force the groups to advocate for their painkillers.”

Cost of U.S. Opioid Epidemic Since 2001 Is $1 Trillion and Climbing, NPR

“The opioid epidemic has cost the U.S. more than a trillion dollars since 2001, according to a new study, and may exceed another $500 billion over the next three years.

“The report by Altarum, a nonprofit group that studies the health economy, examined CDC mortality data through June of last year. The greatest financial cost of the opioid epidemic, according to the report, is in lost earnings and productivity losses to employers. Early deaths and substance [use] disorders also take a toll on local, state and federal government through lost tax revenue.

“These costs are rising. One reason for the increase, says Corey Rhyan, a senior research analyst with Altarum's Center for Value and Health Care, is that more young people are being affected as the epidemic moves from prescription opioids to illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.”

Naloxone, The Medicine Helping Fight the Opioid Crisis, Explained, Vox

“Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet. It’s known by its brand name, Narcan, although there are several other brands of the drug. It’s typically applied to overdose victims through a nasal spray or injection.

“Naloxone effectively pushes out and blocks off opioids from receptors in the brain. In doing this, it halts all the effects of opioids — the positive effects, such as the high and painkilling benefits, and the negative, including a potentially deadly overdose.

“The effects of naloxone last for about 30 to 90 minutes, which is usually enough to stave off an overdose that could turn deadly. That not only can save a person’s life, but it also extends the opportunity to link someone to addiction treatment, such as highly effective medications like buprenorphine and methadone that are shown in the longer term to cut all-cause mortality among opioid addiction patients by half or more.”

OxyContin Maker Will Stop Marketing Opioids to Doctors, Company Says, The Guardian

“The maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said it would stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors, bowing to a key demand of lawsuits that blame the company for helping trigger the current US drug epidemic.

“OxyContin has long been the world’s top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for privately-held Purdue, which also sells a newer and longer-lasting opioid drug called Hysingla.

“The company announced its surprise reversal on Saturday. Purdue’s statement said it eliminated more than half its sales staff this week and would no longer send sales representatives to doctors’ offices to discuss opioid drugs. Its remaining sales staff of about 200 will focus on other medications.”