Opioids | St. Louis Public Radio

Opioids

The emergency department at SSM Health St. Mary's in Clayton is one of several facilities in St. Louis County that County Executive Sam Page would like to have report non-fatal overdoses to the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

County Executive Sam Page plans to ask the County Council to require doctors to report nonfatal overdoses to the health department.

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Many people who overdose on opioids are surviving, thanks to the increased use of the opioid-reversal drug naloxone. Knowing how many people overdose — not just how many die — can help the county understand who needs help the most, Page said.

Health workers and law enforcement are starting to understand addiction and overdoses as a public health, not a criminal, issue, Page said. Other health crises, such as measles or flu epidemics, require physicians to report cases to the government. Overdoses should be no different, he said.

Detective Melody Quinn of the St. Louis County Police Department leads a class outlining the myths and dangers of the sythetic opioid fentanyl, which was involved in the majority of the county's overdose deaths last year.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials from the St. Louis County Police Department want the public and the region’s law enforcement to know touching the synthetic opioid fentanyl won’t get them high or overdose.

Such myths could put overdose victims at risk, since emergency responders may be hesitant to touch or treat them.

In recent months, several police reports and media outlets have recounted stories of law enforcement officers getting high or sick after responding to overdose victims and getting fentanyl powder on their hands.

Hydrocodone is a common opioid that is prescribed for pain relief
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

A study of workplace injuries in 27 states, including Missouri and Illinois, shows 68% of injured workers in very rural areas received at least one opioid prescription, while 54% of their urban counterparts received the same amount of prescription.

The study was conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, an independent group that does research for insurance companies, employers and labor unions.

Three veterans filed suit in Illinois' Third Judicial Circuit against Purdue Pharma and more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, alleging they marketed dangerous painkilling drugs to vets.
David Kovaluk, Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

For years after he got out of the Navy, Joel Bishop took morphine twice a day.

He used four or five Percocet in between those doses.

“I lived around that pill bottle. It’s the only reason I had a watch,” Bishop said. “I couldn’t wait until it was time to open that bottle.”

On Friday, Bishop and two other veterans filed suit in Illinois’ Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Madison and Bond counties, against Purdue Pharma and more than a dozen other pharmaceutical companies, alleging they marketed dangerous painkilling drugs to vets.

Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery Executive Director stands beside the nonprofit's mobile outreach van. The decal on the back window represents the molecule naloxone, a chemical that can reverse and overdose.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis nonprofit is sending outreach workers to city streets to dispense life-saving treatment from a newly refurbished ambulance.

The Missouri Network For Opiate Reform and Recovery will use the vehicle to dispense the overdose-reversal drug naloxone to active drug users and those in recovery. It also provides testing for sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV and information about treatment programs.

The mobile unit extends the nonprofit’s reach beyond its headquarters at 4022 S. Broadway.

David Patterson Silver Wolf is an associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University. He's also chief research officer at the institution's newly launched Community Academic Partnership on Addiction.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

When David Patterson Silver Wolf refers to the U.S. opioid epidemic as part of a “disease of despair” and “a tough disease to treat,” he’s speaking from experience both professional and personal. He experienced substance-use disorder firsthand after growing up in a troubled home that quickly led him toward drugs and alcohol.

“I was young and I was also suicidal – which, a lot of folks, when we talk about [overdosing], it’s hard to separate out what is an OD and what is just taking of your life,” the Washington University faculty member recalled on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And I was also full of despair. I had no hope, I was a high school dropout … and I couldn’t see a vision forward.”

An activist campaign calls on city officials to shut down St. Louis' medium-security jail, commonly known as the Workhouse.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The inmate who died at St. Louis' Medium Security Institution (MSI) in August died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, the autopsy report shows.

Louis L. Payton, 48, was the latest inmate to die at the facility known as the Workhouse this year. He was the fifth inmate to die in custody at a city jail this year, according to records St. Louis Public Radio received in August from the city.

Mike Parson
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson thinks the state is “long overdue” for a statewide prescription-monitoring database for doctors.

Parson, a Republican, said Wednesday he hopes state legislators will pass a bill legalizing such a program next year. Missouri remains the only state without such a database, which proponents say helps cut down on opioids being sold on the street.

Parson made his remarks during a St. Louis stop on a weeklong statewide tour focusing on health issues. He met with state health officials and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to discuss Missourians’ addiction to opioids. The drugs in 2017 killed 760 people in the St. Louis region alone, and 951 in the entire state. One in every 65 deaths in Missouri that year was due to an opioid overdose, according to the the state’s health department.

A radiologic technologist clears a trauma bay at St. Louis University Hospital's emergency room.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A coalition of six medical organizations has recommended that hospital doctors take more caution when prescribing opioids for patients with pain.

To cut down on unnecessary prescriptions of addictive painkillers, the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, the Missouri Hospital Association and other groups want hospital doctors to limit prescriptions, in some cases to a week's supply.

The guidelines, which update a 2015 list that applied only to emergency departments, now include all hospital personnel who prescribe medicine.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of the St. Louis region will be able to discard unwanted and expired prescription drugs at dozens of local police departments this Saturday.

The twice-yearly “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” which is held in cities across the country, aims to reduce prescription drug abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which spearheads the program, estimates they have collected more than 9.9 million pounds of prescription drugs since 2010.

Michelle Pattengill, a technician at L&S Pharmacy in Charleston, Mo., holds a bottle of oxycodone, a prescription opioid.
Bram Sable-Smith| Side Effects Public Media

The number of opioid-overdose deaths in St. Louis and surrounding counties continued to rise in 2017, although the increase wasn’t as steep as in previous years.

There were 760 opioid-related fatalities last year in St. Louis, St. Louis County and eight surrounding counties, a 7 percent increase from 2016, according to the St. Louis-based National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The year before, the number of deaths jumped nearly 40 percent.

“We have seen a major increase in access to treatment, in access to naloxone, in access to harm-reduction strategies, and that might having an impact in slowing down the increase,” said Brandon Costerison, director of the addiction prevention and education initiative MO-HOPE.

A Level I Trauma Center at St. Louis University Hospital.
Provided by Saint Louis University Hospital

A St. Louis-based project that uses former drug users to convince overdose victims in emergency rooms to seek treatment will soon focus on patients who refuse emergency transport.

For two years, the Engaging Patients in Care Coordination project has enlisted peer-recovery coaches from participating treatment centers to area ERs to meet with people who have overdosed on opioids.

Starting this month, the project will send the coaches — themselves in recovery — to meet with overdose victims who refused to go to the ER.

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

Preliminary data from the community health agency NCADA show the number of opioid-related deaths in the St. Louis area rose again last year, as they have since 2007.

Nearly 760 people died due to opioids in 2017, a 5 percent increase from 2016. That was a relative improvement from the dramatic spike between 2015 and 2016, when deaths jumped from 517 to 712, or a 38 percent increase. The total includes deaths from things like driving under the influence of opioids as well as overdose deaths.

Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Paramedics, firefighters and other emergency responders have long carried the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. But Missouri health officials also want to put it in the hands of as many laypeople as possible.

Thanks to a $5 million grant from the federal government, the Missouri Department of Mental Health is giving naloxone away through a project called MO-HOPE.

A capsule of pills.
FDA | file photo

Last year, frustrated with a lack of commitment from state legislators, St. Louis County created its own prescription-drug monitoring program with the specific expectation other areas of the state could join in – and they have.

Howard Weissman and Nichole Dawsey of NCADA
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The number of opioid-related deaths in the St. Louis region is poised to once again break a record.

Opioid-related deaths include overdoses on prescription painkillers, heroin and, increasingly, fentanyl - a prescription drug more potent than heroin that is often mixed with other substances.

In 2016, 712 people died due to opioids. That number is expected to be about 750 people in 2017, explained Howard Weissman, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA).

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Saint Louis University researchers are one step closer to understanding how to prevent the chronic pain associated with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy patients often experience burning and tingling in the hands and feet, known as “chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.” The condition has no known treatment, but new research offers a reason to hope. In a recent study, a team of SLU researchers successfully “turned off” the pain associated with a common chemotherapy drug.

 

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt is facing a tough challenge from Kander. But the closeness of the race isn't hugely surprising, given that statewide contests in Missouri are traditionally competitive.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt is sharply disagreeing with President Donald Trump’s bid to apply steep tariffs to steel and aluminum imports, a move that some major St. Louis companies are panning.

The Republican lawmaker also rejected the president’s suggestion that law enforcement officials take guns away from people before engaging in due process.

Across the country, states desperate to prevent opioid addiction are considering medical cannabis as a solution.

Citing the opioid crisis, lawmakers in several states are looking to initiate or expand their medical marijuana programs including KentuckyNew YorkNew Jersey and Indiana. And in Illinois, where opioids have claimed nearly 11,000 lives over the past decade, the legislature is considering a measure that would allow patients with an opioid prescription to get access to marijuana instead.


The Rev. Ken McKoy hands sandwiches and snacks on North Kingshighway Blvd. on a cold night.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were nearly four times as many opioid-related deaths — 712, according to the NCADA — last year than homicides in the St. Louis area. Overdose deaths hit individuals who are homeless especially hard. A 2013 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association called it an emerging epidemic among the population.

Most of the social service agencies in the St. Louis area offer drug treatment programs, but advocates contend treatment isn’t always available when people in need are ready to accept the help.

New Season spokesman Todd Eury stands outside the planned clinic in St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

A locked storefront for an opioid treatment clinic in a St. Charles strip mall sits between a bar and a meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous. A sign outside reads “New Season.” But the project is on hold, after objections from local residents. 

“We’re not against any of the opioid clinics, we’re against the location,” said Jim Meinhardt, the sales manager of a nearby computer store. “Usually these clinics are not right next to a neighborhood or a day care. Usually there’s some thought.”

When he heard about the plans, Meinhardt started gathering signatures for a petition asking the clinic, which would serve 350 patients, to choose another location.

A sign outside the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery advertises Narcan, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Chad Sabora walked up to a worker in a social services office in south St. Louis County in 2011, with a desperate plea: Where does someone get addiction treatment if they’re uninsured?

“I took off my coat to show her my track marks, like — please, help me,” Sabora recalled. “She had no idea where to send me.”

Years after his recovery, Sabora heads an organization that seeks to connect people with opioid addictions to available treatment. The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery now serves hundreds of people a year at its offices at 4022 S. Broadway St. in Dutchtown.

Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh continued the discussion about the opioid epidemic in St. Louis. Joining him for the discussion was Howard Weissman, executive director of St. Louis’ National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Weissman said the main people affected by opioid addiction are adults ages 25-45, who often have the least resources to combat the addiction.

Missour Attorney General Josh Hawley announces he's issuing subpoenas against three opioid distributors.
Provided |Office of attorney general

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has issued subpoenas to three companies that distribute opioids throughout the United States.

The subpoenas were issued to AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation. As opioid overdoses rise across the country, Hawley is accusing those companies of putting profits ahead of patient health.

Lara Hamdan / St. Louis Public Radio

More people are dying annually from overdosing on opioids compared to HIV, car accidents and gun violence. And Missouri is no exception.

“The opioid crisis is the biggest public health emergency of our lifetimes,” said Rachel Winograd, assistant research professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

 She said the clear hot-spots of deaths in Missouri are in the St. Louis area.

For five years now, the Missouri legislature has considered legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring database that would allow pharmacists and physicians to look at their patient's prescription history for signs of misuse of narcotics. And for five years, Missouri pharmacists like Erica Hopkins have watched those efforts fail with disappointment.


U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, speaks to reporters on July 10, 2017 about health care legislation following a tour of Chestnut Health Systems in Granite City.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Republican effort to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act could devastate drug treatment clinics by making deep cuts to Medicaid, the government-run insurance for low-income Americans, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Monday.

After touring Chestnut Health Systems, an opioid addiction clinic in Granite City, Duckworth told reporters that if Republicans succeed in cutting Medicaid, millions would be hurt, among them those undergoing treatment for opioid addiction. She said Congress needs to protect Medicaid and make sure that medications used to treat addiction are affordable.

Painkiller
Tom Walker | Flickr | http://bit.ly/22McgqC

Last year set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region, most of them opioid-related. Gun violence has also long been a problem in St. Louis. Although there’s no evidence to prove the rise in the prevalence of both issues is related, the solution to them is interconnected, advocates say.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The state of Missouri filed suit Wednesday against three major drug companies, alleging they fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic with a campaign of false advertising and fake claims.

On the steps of St. Louis Circuit Court, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he would seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages against Purdue Pharma L.P., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Missouri state Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson, speaks on a panel held by NAHSE-STL. Affinia Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Kendra Holmes, criminologist Dan Isom, and anti-addiction advocate Howard Weissman join her.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Public health experts on a panel in St. Louis Friday admonished Missouri lawmakers for failing to pass a prescription drug monitoring bill during the last legislative session. They also called for more treatment centers.

At least 712 people died after opioid overdoses in the bi-state St. Louis region last year — nearly 200 more than the year before, according to the anti-addiction group NCADA St. Louis. Missouri is the only state without a statewide database.

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