July 2017
Addressing the Opioid Crisis

With the opioid epidemic touching lives across the country, the American Hospital Association has compiled a number of resources, including webinars and conference calls, that address this widespread issue.
A Story of Addiction & Recovery

Heroin Addiction, Recovery and No Shame | Crystal Oertle | TEDxColumbus
Heroin Addiction, Recovery and No Shame | Crystal Oertle | TEDxColumbus

Crystal Oertle is lucky to be alive after a 12-year dance with heroin. In this courageous TED Talk, her first ever in public, Crystal shares the fundamental truths of her recovery in the shadow of a state struggling to survive the heroin epidemic. 
Opioid Crisis
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a website dedicated to providing information and resources about the opioid epidemic, including data and federal plans to combat the issue.

At the request of various organizations, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed guidelines for health care providers to identify and manage substance use and substance use disorders for women who are pregnant or have recently had a child. 

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has compiled key resources to help providers and patients, including pregnant women, together carefully weigh the risks and benefits when making decisions to initiate opioid treatment.

The mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health. Visit their webpage for resources related to the opioid crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to an approach that protects the public's health and prevents opioid overdose deaths. View their website to learn more about opioids, how to increase use of state prescription monitoring programs, and guidelines for providers.
The Opioid Epidemic
T he opioid epidemic has been called one of the worst drug crises of our time. Thirty years ago, America was facing a similar wave of addiction, death, and crime, but the response was vastly different. Nevertheless, death rates today now rival those of AIDS during the 1990s, and with overdoses from heroin and other opioids now killing more than 33,000 people a year, the crisis has led to urgent calls for action from every level.

Over the course of more than a decade, the opioid epidemic has grown, destroying lives across the nation, crossing lines of age, race, wealth, and geography. In this month of July we take a look at what is happening and who is most affected.

The Rise in Opioid Overdose Deaths
In 1999, cocaine killed about twice as many people as heroin -- 3,822 and 1,960 deaths, respectively -- while opioids killed 4,030. The majority of overdoses today, however, now stem from prescription opioids and heroin. 
By 2014, opioid deaths were up 369%, while deaths from heroin jumped 439%, according to CDC data. That same year, cocaine deaths dropped below those caused by benzodiazepines, a class of drugs often used in sleeping pills or to combat anxiety.

One factor behind the surge in heroin and opioid use was the dramatic spike in the use of prescription painkillers. In 1991, doctors wrote 76 million prescriptions. By 2011, that number had nearly tripled, to 219 million. This rise was made all the more dangerous when drug cartels began flooding the U.S. with heroin, which was cheaper, more potent, and often easier to acquire than prescription pain meds. As both heroin and prescription opioids became more common, so too did overdoses.

Across Racial & Age Lines
Every racial group has seen more overdoses since 1999, with heroin spiking especially after 2010. Whites and American Indians have experienced the largest rise in death rates, particularly when it comes to opioid-related fatalities. By 2014, Whites and American Indians were dying at double or triple the rates of African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos.

It is important to note, however, that while media attention has focused on the uptick of deaths among White, middle-class users, the death rate from heroin overdose among African Americans has increased by more than 200% since 2010. Among Hispanic/Latinos, it has climbed nearly 140%.

Likewise, nearly every age group has been touched by the opioid epidemic. Heroin deaths tend to occur among younger populations, while fatal opioid overdoses are more likely to happen in middle age.

Call to Action
While the number of calls to action are many, the CDC recommends improving the prescribing of opioids to reduce exposure, expanding evidence-based substance abuse treatment and availability of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose, and reducing access to illegal opioids as potential action steps to address this crisis.

Modified from PBS Frontline, " How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?"
New Blog Post!

In this blog, " When Addiction Has a White Face," Ekow Yankah -- a Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law -- discusses how the national response to addiction today is vastly different from that in the 1980s. In his own words, "When the face of addiction had dark skin, this nation's police did not see sons and daughters... They saw young thugs to be locked up...." He notes that we do not have to wait until a problem has a White face to answer with humanity.

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