Drug Abuse

Chad Sabora of the Missouri Network for Opioid Reform and Recovery answers question from the public safety committee on May 24, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The public safety committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved Tuesday a measure that supporters say will reduce the number of fatal heroin overdoses in the city.

The so-called "good Samaritan law" would give heroin users immunity from drug possession charges if they call 911 for someone who has overdosed. They could still be arrested for other crimes, or if a warrant has been issued against them.

A kit containing the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Legislation that would expand access to Narcan, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is being weighed by a Missouri Senate committee. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steven Lynch, R-Pulaski County, says this is just one aspect of statewide drug policy reform.

“Narcan is not a solution for this epidemic, it is a rescue remedy to keep people alive until we can figure out how to deal with the complex problem of drug addition, use, and treatment,” said Lynch.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

Deaths caused by heroin and other opiates in the St. Louis region have dropped. But with a spike in deaths in 2014, the decline only represents a return to the region’s previously elevated count.

After jumping up to 445 deaths in 2014, the preliminary 2015 count from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is 324. Except for a spike in 2011, the region’s opiate death toll has hovered in the low-to-mid 300s for the past five years.

Pills prescription drugs pharmaceuticals
ep_jhu | Flickr

A patient comes into an emergency room, clearly in pain and begging for medication. Is she physically ill or addicted to narcotics? It’s almost impossible to tell. But a new set of guidelines for emergency physicians, primary care providers and dentists may help doctors sort through those questions.

“Every day in the emergency department, I see patients who currently have or have had issues with narcotic medications,” said Dr. Matthew Treaster, an emergency physician for SSM Health.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

It’s commonly understood that prescription painkillers are a gateway drug to heroin—both drugs are in the opiate family and provide similar highs. But new research from Washington University School of Medicine is redefining what that means.

Rather than switching from prescription painkillers to heroin, the Washington University researchers have found that many people who try heroin also continue to abuse prescription opiates.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

Missouri hospitals have seen a drastic increase in prescription painkiller abuse over the past decade. According to a study from the Missouri Hospital Association, the rate of hospitalization due to the abuse of prescription opioids has increased by 137 percent since 2005.

The numbers localize a problem usually shown through national statistics. For instance, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die every day in the United States from prescription painkiller overdoses.

Michael and Kelley McDonald and Laura and Pete Stenger reminisce about their sons Sean McDonald and Mitch Stenger at Cottleville Wine Seller in St. Charles County. Both Sean and Mitch died of heroin overdoses in 2014. Mitch used to work at the Wine Seller
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

(Part 1 of 3) - On an April morning in 2014, Kelley McDonald woke up in her suburban St. Charles home and went downstairs to remind her son Sean to take his bipolar medication.

“I go over to the couch and I kind of shake him and I’m like come on buddy you’ve got to take your medicine. And that’s when I looked at him and he was kind of blue and I started screaming,” said Kelley McDonald, her voice shaking as she sits next to her husband Michael at a restaurant gazebo one year later.

Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

With federal prisons already more than 30 percent beyond their designed capacity, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons, an unlikely group of U.S. senators has come together to try to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., are joining up with U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. When the group held a joint news conference last week, they joked and laughed, “There isn’t a moderate here, on either side.” 

(via Flickr/Michael Velardo)

The top two law enforcement officials in Madison County, Ill., say they want to hear from anyone and everyone who might have ideas about slowing the heroin epidemic in the county.

Michael Velardo | Flickr

Experts who study drug trends say the presumed fatal heroin overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shines the spotlight anew on the need for society to come to grips with widespread heroin abuse across the nation and in St. Louis.

Among those who have studied the issue is Theodore “Ted” Cicero, a  professor in neuropharmacology in psychiatry at Washington University Medical School. He has tracked patient trends in 150 drug treatment facilities nationwide for more than seven years.