This Week's News in Substance Use: 7/7/17

Opioid prescriptions dropped for the first time in the modern drug crisis, The Washington Post

“Gary Mendell, founder of the anti-drug advocacy group Shatterproof, noted ‘the improvements being made,’ citing estimates that 80 percent of opioid abusers first become addicted to prescription narcotics, not street drugs. But, he said, the reduction is ‘not even close to what could occur in this country.’

In particular, Mendell said, prescribing practices should be measured and responded to in real time. The CDC process of collecting data from states and counties is cumbersome and inefficient, he said.”

$45 Billion to Fight Opioid Abuse? That’s Much Too Little, Experts Say, The New York Times

“The Senate leadership’s efforts to salvage the Republican health care bill have focused in part on adding $45 billion for states to spend on opioid addiction treatment.

That is a big pot of money. But addiction specialists said it was drastically short of what would be needed to make up for the legislation’s deep cuts to Medicaid, which has provided treatment for hundreds of thousands of people caught up in a national epidemic of opioid abuse.”

More opioid funding won’t save the Senate health care bill, Vox

“’With the proposed cuts to Medicaid in this bill, even if there were $50 billion included for [recovery] services, consumers would still be at risk because of problems that accompany addiction such as hepatitis, HIV, and endocarditis,’ Andrew Kessler, who focuses on these issues at Slingshot Solutions, told me recently. ‘To say nothing of the mental health disorders that can often accompany addiction.’

‘So whether McConnell is trying to buy a couple of votes for either $2 billion or $50 billion,’ he continued, ‘in the end, we hope that senators who have long supported the [recovery] community won't sell their votes for 30 pieces of silver.’”

As new and lethal opioids flood U.S. streets, crime labs race to identify them, STAT News

“The yellow pills had already killed four before landing in Brian Hargett’s lab last month. They were clearly counterfeit — the letters P-E-R-C-O-C-E-T were as crooked as the dealer who had peddled them throughout central Georgia — but now his chemists had to figure out exactly what they were. And fast. Lives were still at stake; health officials wanted to alert the public about the phony pills. First, though, they had to know what was in them.”

The Opioid Epidemic Is Literally Changing Kids’ Brains, Mother Jones

"Working at a clinic in San Francisco’s poverty-stricken Bayview neighborhood a decade ago, pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris often saw patients who had experienced tough stuff, from incarcerated parents to violent homes to mentally ill caregivers. Many of these kids, she noticed, “failed to thrive”—they weren’t developing physically at a normal rate, despite parents’ best efforts to take care of them."

GOP Senators From Opioid-Ravaged States Uneasy About Health Care Bill, NPR

“[Chelsea] Carter estimates that about 90 percent of the people who come to her clinic for treatment for addiction are on Medicaid, the federal program for the poor that West Virginia chose to expand under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The Senate health care bill would phase out that expansion and, over time, make cuts to traditional Medicaid (as compared with the anticipated spending under current law). And so, Carter is watching the debate closely.”

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