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Four Kentuckians die of drug overdoses every day, according to the state Office of Drug Control Policy. Most of those deaths are due to opioids, chief among them fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has properties similar to heroin.

During a daylong update Wednesday on the state of Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, lawmakers heard from doctors, counselors and those in recovery about efforts to combat drug addiction.

The attorneys general of 41 U.S. states said Tuesday that they're banding together to investigate the makers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that have, over the past decade, led to a spike in opiate addictions and overdose deaths.

Jonathan Guffey has chiseled youthful looks and, at 32, does not have the haggard bearing of someone who has spent more than half his life hooked on opioids. That stint with the drug started at 15 and ended — he says for good — 22 months ago. He has a job working with his family in construction, but his work history is pockmarked by addiction.

"I've worked in a couple of factories for a short amount of time, probably just long enough to get the first check to get high off of," Guffey says.

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Workers injured on the job received fewer prescription opioids after landmark legislation passed in Kentucky that set up a drug monitoring database, according to a new study out Tuesday.

The independent Workers Compensation Research Institute reviewed new workers’ comp claims filed in Kentucky between 2011 and 2014.

Prior to the 2011 law (HB 1) that created the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, 54 percent of Kentucky workers with workers’ comp claims were given a prescription for opioids. After the law took effect in 2012, that number decreased to 44 percent.

WFPL

Louisville Metro government is suing the country’s three largest opioid distribution companies: Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson.

Mayor Greg Fischer and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell announced the federal lawsuit Monday morning.

President Trump says he is ready to declare the nation's opioid crisis "a national emergency," saying it is a "serious problem the likes of which we have never had." Speaking to reporters at the entrance to his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where he is on a working vacation, Trump promised "to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."

Update 3:35 pm August 10: Two days after making a few general remarks about the opioid crisis, President Trump on Thursday called it "a national emergency" and said his administration would be drawing up papers to make it official.

"We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis," Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

In Prince George's County, Md., every first responder carries naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

"We carry it in our first-in bags," says Bryan Spies, the county's battalion chief in charge of emergency services. "So whenever we arrive at a patient's side, it's in the bag, along with things like glucose, aspirin and oxygen."

Philip Kirby says he first used heroin during a stint in a halfway house a few years ago, when he was 21 years old. He quickly formed a habit.

"You can't really dabble in it," he says.

Late last year, Kirby was driving with drugs and a syringe in his car when he got pulled over. He went to jail for a few months on a separate charge before entering a drug court program in Hamilton County, Ind., north of Indianapolis. But before Kirby started, he says the court pressured him to get a shot of a drug called Vivitrol.

A White House commission released a report this week on America's opioid crisis with an urgent recommendation — that President Trump declare it a national emergency.

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Robert Stivers, the president of the Kentucky State Senate, said he’ll ask to intervene in a legal challenge against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma in order to release documents that deal with a settlement the company made with the state in late 2015.

Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, suggested the case was improperly settled by former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, saying the $24 million windfall amounted to “pennies on the dollar” of what the state could have gotten.

In late May, several senators went to the floor of the Senate to talk about people in their states who are affected by the opioid crisis. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., talked about Chelsea Carter.

"She told me her drug habit began when she was 12 years old," said Capito.

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Lawyers for the Boston Globe have asked a Kentucky appeals court to release the secret testimony from a member of the family that controls one of the country's largest manufacturers of prescription painkillers.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office sued Purdue Pharma in 2007 for its deceptive marketing of OxyContin, an addictive prescription painkiller. The case was settled in 2015 for $24 million. But before it settled, former company president Richard Sackler gave an on-the-record deposition that is part of the court file. Sackler is a member of the family that controls the company.

GOP's Health Care Rollback Collides with the Opioid Epidemic

Jun 20, 2017
Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

The Republican campaign to roll back former President Barack Obama's health care law is colliding with the opioid epidemic. Medicaid cutbacks would hit hard in states deeply affected by the addiction crisis and struggling to turn the corner, according to state data and concerned lawmakers in both parties.

The central issue is that the House health care bill would phase out expanded Medicaid, which allows states to provide federally backed insurance to low-income adults previously not eligible. Many people in that demographic are in their 20s and 30s and dealing with opioid addiction. Dollars from Washington have allowed states to boost their response to the crisis, paying for medication, counseling, therapy and other services.

Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital

Amid the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, hospitals say overdoses have strained emergency rooms.

Kentucky hospital officials told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that drug overdose cases require intervention and critical care, tying up resources.

The opioid crisis hasn't hit western Kentucky's Daviess County, where methamphetamine is still the dominant street drug, as hard as the rest of the state. Dr. Charles Hobelmann, an emergency department physician at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, said the frequency of opioid overdoses is increasing, however.

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