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opioid drugs

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President Donald Trump recently declared America's opioid crisis a “national emergency."

Prescription opioids are prescribed for pain, but the medications can be highly addictive. People who become addicted may switch to heroin when they can no longer get pills at the pharmacy or on the black market.

The epidemic is rapidly killing people, something like 90 people a day in the U.S.

While the nation is coming to grips with the opioid crisis, researchers at the University of Michigan have started a group to reduce opioid addiction in this state.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Monday night, the Lansing city council declared the opioid crisis a public nuisance. It’s a first step toward filing a lawsuit against drug companies.

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Twelve men face federal charges for their alleged roles in an Oakland County-based drug ring that’s linked to at least one overdose death.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit unsealed an indictment against the men Wednesday.

The indictment alleges the men were part of a “drug trafficking organization known as the TEAM.” The “TEAM” was reportedly a merger of two former street gangs who “joined together to distribute heroin” starting in 2010.

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Patients and surgeons can now find free, online recommendations about how much opioid pain medication to prescribe for 11 common operations.

The guidelines were developed by a team of University of Michigan medical researchers, with the goal of curbing opioid addiction. They include suggested information for health care providers to give patients about post-surgical pain expectations and medication use. 

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Oakland and Wayne County Executives have filed suit in federal court against 13 opioid drug manufacturers and distributors.

They claim the drug makers' deceptive marketing campaigns over many years contributed heavily to the current opioid addiction crisis.

In 2016, there were 817 opioid-related deaths in Wayne County, a 61 percent increase over the previous year. In Oakland County, opioid-related deaths have risent from 9 in 2009 to 33 in 2015. 


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In 2000, 59 young adults in Michigan between the ages of 18 and 29 were reported as having chronic hepatitis C (HVC). Last year, there 2,060 reported cases in that same age group.

That’s an astonishing 3,391 percent increase within the span of just 16 years.

Those numbers come from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services annual assessment of hepatitis rates, which was released on Wednesday. 

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Health organizations in Michigan just got some more ammunition in the fight against opioid abuse.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has awarded nearly $6.5 million dollars in grants to health programs around the state in an effort to address the opioid crisis.  

Becky Cienki, the MHEF's senior program officer, says the grants were made through the fund's behavioral health initiative. The 16 projects that received grants are focused on either substance abuse disorders or mental health.

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State officials say overdose deaths jumped by 18% last year in Michigan with the majority of cases involving opioid abuse.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that nearly 1,700 of the 2,335 overdose deaths in 2016 were opioid-related.

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Doctors would be required to check an electronic monitoring database before prescribing painkillers and other drugs under legislation aimed at preventing opioid addicts from "doctor shopping."

Senate Bills 166 and 167 won approval Thursday in the Michigan Senate and were sent to the House for consideration.

Michigan's per capita rate of opiod painkiller prescriptions is the 10th highest in the U.S. 

Timothy Plancon with the DEA's Detroit field office says it's difficult to tell when the dangerous drugs Carfentinil or Fentanyl may be mixed with drugs such as heroin
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Powerful synthetic opioid street drugs have changed the way some law enforcement officials collect and handle drug evidence. 

Fentanyl and carfentinil are extremely powerful synthetic opiates sometimes used in street drugs that have made their way to Michigan. The drugs are especially dangerous because they can be absorbed through the air or through contact with the skin, according to Timothy Plancon, Special Agent in charge of the DEA's Detroit field office. 

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Tuesday, state lawmakers will consider a package of bills  aimed at reducing Michigan’s growing problems with prescription painkillers.

Opioids, like hydrocodone and oxycodone, are commonly prescribed for pain management.

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Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is treating cases of fatal drug overdoses as murder investigations.

 

He says four attorneys have been assigned to help prosecute cases against opioid and heroin traffickers, including two instances where alleged suppliers are accused of second-degree murder.

 

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The state wants more people in Michigan to have access to a drug that can save the life of someone who's overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers.

A new state standing order pre-authorizes pharmacists to distribute naloxone, also known as Narcan, to anyone without a prescription. 

"It could be someone at risk for having an overdose or a friend, a loved one, a partner of someone who is concerned about a person at risk for an overdose," said Dr. Eden Wells, the state's chief medical officer.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are introducing legislation to help fight rising opioid abuse.

  A group of bipartisan lawmakers is looking to tackle the drug epidemic in Michigan through a variety of ways, including health education in schools and creating prescription limits on opioids. They also are promoting the use of an updated database that monitors prescriptions.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
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Michigan is updating what state officials call a useful tool for fighting the opioid epidemic.

The problematic state drug monitoring program has gotten a significant facelift. The system is used primarily by law enforcement and doctors to flag potential prescription drug abuse and better treat patients. 

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley chaired the task force that recommended the system update. He said tracking medications is an important tool for doctors, especially when it comes to potential opioid abuse by a patient.

For babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the first few days and weeks can be more challenging.
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Sara and her husband always wanted to have a baby. They tried for years, but she’d been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, so she eventually accepted it wasn’t in the cards for them.

Amanda Darche with the Ingham County Health department says she's seen how prescription opioid abuse can lead to heroin use.
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Deaths related to opioid drug use are continuing to climb in Ingham County, reflecting a similar pattern across the state.

Last year, 77 people suffered opioid-related deaths in 2016, according to Amanda Darche, the health communications specialist with the Ingham County health department.

“If you compare that to 2006, when there were only eight opioid related deaths, you can see that that’s quite an increase,” Darche said. “Opioid abuse really is an epidemic here in the county.”

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Republican US House leaders on Friday withdrew their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill from the floor after it was clear the measure would not have enough votes to pass. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether Gov. Rick Snyder and Healthy Michigan advocates can breath a sigh of relief.

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Governor Rick Snyder says current efforts to curb opioid abuse and addiction in Michigan aren’t working as nearly 2,000 people a year in the state die from overdoses.

“Far too many lives have been either lost, damaged, injured in some fashion because of these drugs,” he said. “We need to do more in our state.”

Snyder says a big part of the problem is over-prescribing painkillers. He says prescriptions have spiraled in recent years.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will soon discuss proposed solutions to Michigan’s opioid drug epidemic.

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker’s bills would crack down on doctors or clinics that prescribe narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose, and pharmacies that dispense them.

“Opioid related overdoses are skyrocketing nationwide, and unfortunately, Michigan’s overdose death rate is one of the highest in the nation,” said Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) in a written statement.

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In a perfect world, all of our doctors would be really, really good at something called “motivational interviewing.”

There are a million websites and books devoted to motivational interviewing, but here’s a super-quick synopsis (that might make an expert in motivational interviewing cringe): basically, it’s an in-depth, open-ended, non-judgmental conversation about health behaviors that draws out our own thoughts about our drug use/alcoholism/weight struggles, etc. 

Babies exposed to opioids in the womb may suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, especially in rural areas
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As more babies are born addicted to opioids, rural communities are being hit the hardest, according to a new study from a University of Michigan pediatrician.  

Between 2004 and 2013, urban areas saw a four-fold increase in babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (that’s the clinical term for a baby born addicted to opioids, including heroin and some prescription painkillers). Rural areas saw a seven-fold surge.

Those rural moms were also more likely to struggle financially and have less access to mental health care, says the study’s author, University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Dr. Nicole Villapiano.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
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Michigan has a fierce fight on its hands. A fight to keep people out of the clutches of opioid and heroin addiction. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offers some stunning numbers that show how badly this fight is going. 

In 1999 there were 99 heroin or opioid overdose deaths. In 2014, that number climbed to 1,001. 

That's 10 times as many deaths in just 15 years.

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Bills making their way through the Michigan Legislature would allow school staff to more quickly treat students who overdose on heroin or prescription opioid pills. 

If they pass, teachers wouldn’t have to wait for an ambulance before getting them naloxone, aka Narcan, the anti-opioid drug that police and EMS workers carry.

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After watching heroin overdoses rise slowly over the last two years, police in Battle Creek saw a sudden spike in November.

LifeCare Ambulance serves Calhoun County. It responded to 56 calls for heroin overdoses in November this year, compared to 18 overdoses in November, 2015.

Police suspect heroin cut with Carfentanil is to blame, though they are still awaiting the results of lab tests to confirm.

Carfentanil is a powerful opiate sometimes used as an elephant tranquilizer and is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

U of M hopes to crack down on opioid addiction

Oct 25, 2016
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With a $1.4 million per year grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, the University of Michigan launched a five-year project called the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN).

Timothy Plancon with the DEA's Detroit field office says it's difficult to tell when the dangerous drugs Carfentinil or Fentanyl may be mixed with drugs such as heroin
Narconon

Carfentanil-laced heroin is showing up in Michigan.

That was confirmed last week, when public health officials in Wayne County definitively linked at least 19 deaths since July to the powerful synthetic opioid.

They were on the lookout for carfentanil after it appeared in nearby states this summer — particularly Ohio, where a late-summer surge in fatal overdoses was tied to carfentanil. There was also a suspected case in Kent County last month.

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A potent synthetic opioid is showing up in Michigan’s illicit drug supply, and is now linked to at least 19 deaths.

Carfentanil is used as an elephant tranquilizer. It can be mixed with heroin, or pressed into pill form.

It’s said to be 100 times more potent than its cousin fentanyl, and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. It’s been linked to a spike in overdose deaths around the Midwest over the past several months.

PAULA FRIEDRICH / Michigan Radio

Librarians are finding themselves face to face with the heroin and opioid epidemic as drug users take advantage of free access to quiet areas where people often keep to themselves.

The library director in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says the open-access environment can make public libraries susceptible to misuse.

In the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, a man fatally overdosed in a locked library restroom in April. Officials say his body might have been there for days, overlooked by a now-fired security contractor.

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“I remember looking at some of the early federal reports involving opioid pain killers and overdose deaths and they had increased so rapidly, when I was looking at the data I was convinced someone had put a decimal point in the wrong place,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny said.

Kolodny is a senior scientist at Brandeis University and executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He spent time working in addiction medicine in New York City during the early 2000s.

“The sharp increase was very real and what we would ultimately come to recognize is that we were at the beginning of a new, very severe epidemic,” Kolodny said.

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