addiction

Rhode Island Department of Health

The state health department has just published some striking data on numbers of prescription painkillers, stimulants, and other controlled substances prescribed in Rhode Island over a 10 year period.

In January 2014, according to the health department, 1.8 million doses for painkillers were filled in Rhode Island. The numbers have been on a steady incline for 10 years. Check out the red line, below.

RIPR FILE / Courtesy CVS

CVS Caremark will be joining Walgreens in allowing pharmacists to dispense a life-saving antidote for drug overdoses, without a prescription. That means that soon Narcan will be much more widely available throughout the state.

Rhode Island Hospital drug abuse epidemiologist Traci Green has been working with a statewide overdose prevention task force to get Narcan – also known as naloxone—into as many hands as possible. The drug can rescue someone who has overdosed on an opioid like heroin or prescription painkiller OxyContin.

127 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental drug overdoses since the beginning of this year. That includes 17 in July alone. The numbers had been declining – down to one overdose death in June. But health department officials are alarmed by the sudden spike.

Rhode Island Public Radio has been tracking the state’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis. Health care reporter Kristin Gourlay joined host Dave Fallon in the studio to talk about the recent increase.

Aaron Read / RIPR

Rhode Island’s health department has started tracking the number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Agency head Dr. Michael Fine says that’s because those drugs are addictive. And four out of five people who use heroin got started on prescription painkillers. In July, he says, 118,000 Rhode Islanders got prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Local efforts to prevent drug overdose deaths could get a boost, if Congress passes new legislation to expand funding to such programs.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill that would make funding available to community organizations and public health agencies to buy and distribute naloxone, or Narcan. That’s a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose on prescription painkillers or heroin.

A new program aims to connect people who have accidentally overdosed on opioids with addiction treatment – before they leave the emergency room. The state’s largest nonprofit mental health service organization, The Providence Center, is providing what it calls “recovery coaches” to Kent Hospital through a program called AnchorED.

Another legislative session has wrapped up. Health care reporter Kristin Gourlay joins host Dave Fallon in the studio to talk about how health care fared on Smith Hill.

Here's a transcript of their discussion.

State officials have announced another tool to help physicians spot and treat drug abuse.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

More Rhode Island babies are being born dependent on the opioid drugs their pregnant mothers were taking. Their condition, called neonatal abstinence syndrome, sometimes requires hospital stays and powerful medications. In the second of our two-part series, the story of a newborn going through withdrawal and a young mother trying to make a new life for him in recovery. (You can listen to part one of our series here.)

Visiting baby Jonathan
“Where’s everybody headed?”

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

More Rhode Island babies are being born dependent on the opioid drugs (including OxyContin and heroin) their pregnant mothers were taking. Many of these babies need hospital stays and powerful medication to help them through the painful withdrawal. Now, researchers at Women & Infants Hospital are trying to pin down what treatments work best, and what the long-term impacts are. Part one of our two-part series on newborns in withdrawal.

A rough entry into the world

(Sound: subtle whirring of the nursery)

Aaron Read / RIPR

A state senate committee has recommended passage of two bills aimed at curbing prescription drug and heroin abuse.

The Warm Hand-Off

Apr 17, 2014

Doctors' offices and emergency departments sometimes struggle with how to help someone in active addiction. Where do you send them once they're stabilized? How do you talk to them about their addiction? Often they don't have the resources to arrange the next steps for these patients, and therein lies a missing link for addicts who seek medical help for one reason or another but don't get into treatment for the addiction that probably played a role in their seeking medical help in the first place.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State leaders have announced some new steps in the fight against prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. The news accompanies the release of the latest grim numbers of drug overdose deaths.  

Rhode Island health department head Michael Fine told a standing-room-only crowd at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket that 85 people have died since January from suspected drug overdoses, mostly heroin. Hundreds more have overdosed but survived, he said, thanks to an antidote called Narcan, which first responders carry.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled "Hearing Heroin Everywhere." If I were to rewrite that title today, it'd be "Hearing Narcan Everywhere." It seems the conversation has changed a bit from "Houston, we have a problem," to "Houston, how do we stop this thing?" But I'm confident most health care providers and people affected by addiction and overdose would agree that the fact that we're still having the conversation - publicly, in the media, in public forums, at city halls - is a good thing.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The rising number of Rhode Islanders struggling with an addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin has brought an increase in babies born addicted to these substances. And Women & Infants Hospital is treating a growing number of them.

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