prescription drugs

Tomorrow night! Join Rhode Island Public Radio for Policy & Pinot, our ongoing public discussion series held in conjunction with the Providence Athenaeum.

When: Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Reception at 5:30 PM, program begins shortly after.

Where: The Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, Providence, RI. Some street parking available.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A record number of Rhode Islanders have died from an opioid overdose. In this special report on the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose, we examine how our problem with prescription painkillers and heroin addiction and overdose got so bad, what it's like to respond to this crisis on the front lines, and how communities, and addicts, can recover.


Two community forums are taking place over the next week to talk about preventing overdose. They couldn't come at a better time.

Overdose kills more Rhode Islanders than any other kind of accident (including traffic and guns). During the first two weeks of January, 22 Rhode Islanders died from presumed illicit drug overdoses. Another two died over the past two weekends, according to a source at the health department.

Lots of news organizations, including this one, are ticking off the year's top 10 stories. I'd like to run through some of Rhode Island's bottom health stories, meaning the ones least likely to have appeared on radar screens - but which should have. And don't worry: there's some good news in here too!

In no particular order:

Rhode Island Hospital and the entire Lifespan network have announced new guidelines for prescribing painkillers in their emergency rooms. ER doctors are trying to address the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction.

State lawmakers are looking at ways to strengthen Rhode Island’s prescription drug monitoring program. They say there are too many gaps in the current system that allow people to abuse prescription drugs.

John Bender / RIPR

College students have long been known to experiment with drinking when they’re blowing off steam, and even use illegal drugs like marijuana.

But a growing number of college students are now turning to prescription drugs to get ahead academically.

The drugs, like Adderall, are used legally to treat conditions like Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, and they’re increasingly common on college campuses around the country.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

California-based Prime Healthcare Services won approval earlier this week to buy Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center. But the approval came with conditions. One is that the company keep Rhode Island regulators abreast of a federal investigation it’s under for allegedly over-billing Medicare. Another is that Prime invest in primary care and in preventing hospital re-admissions. The Department of Health expressed some concern about Prime’s practices at other hospitals, but department head Michael Fine said the terms of the deal to acquire Landmark should allay those concerns.

That's the question vexing public health directors - and anyone with a loved one who's experienced one -  everywhere. That includes Rhode Island, where health department chief Dr. Michael Fine named combating prescription drug overdose deaths one of his top priorities.

A new report finds that while deaths from prescription drug overdose have doubled in Rhode Island, the state has implemented many of the measures experts say can prevent those deaths.