Following their breakout sessions at the 2017 National Conference on Addiction Disorders in Baltimore, several experts spoke with Tom Valentino, senior editor of Addiction Professional and Behavioral Healthcare Executive, and shared key takeaways from their presentations.
Greg Hobelmann, MD, staff physician for Ashley Addiction Treatment, on treating chronic pain with opioid alternatives:
A new report out from the CDC on Wednesday morning highlights the dramatic shifts in overdose deaths among teens ages 15 to 19.
After more than doubling between 1999 and 2007, the overdose death rate among that group dropped 26 percent between 2008 and 2014. But the rate dramatically rose in 2015.
Opioids — and specifically, heroin — were the primary cause of drug overdoses among adolescents in 2015.
Key findings from the National Vital Statistics System
- The death rate due to drug overdose among adolescents aged 15–19 more than doubled from 1999 (1.6 per 100,000) to 2007 (4.2), declined by 26% from 2007 to 2014 (3.1), and then increased in 2015 (3.7).
- The drug overdose death rate increased between 1999 and the mid-2000s for both males and females but only males had a subsequent decline between 2007 and 2014.
- For both male and female adolescents, the majority of drug overdose deaths in 2015 were unintentional.
- Death rates for drug overdoses among those aged 15–19 in 2015 were highest for opioids, specifically heroin.
Meanwhile, as the opioid epidemic rages on, the lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors continue to pile up. South Carolina’s attorney general just filed a lawsuit against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, alleging that the company used shady marketing tactics that contributed to the epidemic. And in Cincinnati, city officials are suing three major prescription drug distributors, alleging that they broke a federal law that requires them to report suspicious opioid orders.
At this juncture, we remain sadly pessimistic that the Trump Administration is not going to fulfill cornerstone campaign promises to tackle the epidemic head-on. The recent declaration of national health emergency did send an important message of acknowledgement, and hopefully will expedite access to resources and different tools to respond, those resources are often only available to the indigent and underserved areas. This could be used to staff up or train providers for medication-assisted treatment, which is considered the gold standard for opioid addiction care. Or it could be used to waive state licensing requirements for doctors, letting addiction specialists go into areas that currently don’t have enough access to such care.
But for the balance of the nation, it may not mean much.