painkillers

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning states about an uptick in the availability of counterfeit painkillers. These drugs are contributing to the ongoing opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.

The pills are labeled as OxyCodone or Xanax, for example, but could contain varying amounts of a much stronger opioid painkiller called fentanyl. These are illicit drugs, sold outside of pharmacies. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The national crisis of opioid addiction has led many doctors and patients to look for alternatives for managing pain. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Brown University’s medical school has teamed up with Rhode Island Hospital to teach future doctors how to address opioid addiction and overdose. They’re using a nearly $1million federal dollar grant to create a new curriculum.

And the need could not be more urgent. Just last week the Centers for Disease Control reported that half a million Americans have died from accidental drug overdoses in the past 15 years, mostly involving prescription painkillers and increasingly heroin.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health department officials have a plan to compel more doctors to use a prescription drug monitoring program. That’s one piece of the effort to fight opioid addiction and overdose.

A prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, is an online database. It’s supposed to help anyone who prescribes controlled substances like painkillers or anxiety medications look up a patient’s history with those drugs. The idea is to spot signs of trouble, like dangerous drug combinations, or addiction. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island and Connecticut are now able to share prescription drug data across state lines. Linking the states’ prescription drug monitoring programs is designed to help doctors spot possible abuse and 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.

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.

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.

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.

Aaron Read / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals has issued emergency regulations in response to the recent spike in drug overdose deaths.

RICARES

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.

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.

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.

US Marine Corps / via Wikimedia Commons

For Rhode Islanders between 15 and 44 years old, the leading cause of death is accidental drug overdose, usually involving prescription painkillers.  State health leaders are calling it an epidemic. There’s growing evidence that tracking the number of pills doctors prescribe to potential abusers might ease the problem. But Rhode Island’s fledgling prescription drug monitoring program is just getting started.

The dark side of opiates

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