Addiction

Opiate settlement could mean $1B for Ohio treatment, prevention programs

Ohio and other states reached a $26 billion settlement with the three largest drug distributors as well as manufacturer Johnson & Johnson that is expected to surge cash into opioid treatment and prevention programs (Source: “Ohio could get $1B from multibillion dollar deal with opiate maker and three distributors,” Columbus Dispatch, July 21).

Ohio's cut of the cash could hit $1.03 billion if local jurisdictions sign onto the agreement, according to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office.

The agreement comes after nearly four years of negotiations. Under the settlement, J&J will pay up to $5 billion over nine years and the three distributors — McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Ohio-based Cardinal Health Inc. — will collectively pay up to $21 billion over 17 years. 

In March 2020, Yost and Gov. Mike DeWine announced that local governments had signed off on a plan on how opioid settlement money would be divvied up. The OneOhio agreement calls for 30% of the money to be earmarked for community recovery programs at the local level, 55% for a statewide foundation and 15% to the state.


States not ready to meet mental health needs of students this fall, report finds

A report released this week from advocacy group Mental Health America found that a majority of states are not ready to address youth mental health as schools prepare to reopen for in-person learning in the fall (Source: “Analysis: Most states not ready to tackle youth mental health ahead of fall,” The Hill, July 20). 

The analysis reports that just 14 states have fully expanded Medicaid to cover mental health services in schools, and only a handful have legislation requiring mental health education. The lack of access and education make states unprepared to deal with mental health issues among children, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, the report said. 

Children of color are more likely to receive school-based mental health services than white children, so limited resources can also lead to disparities in who is getting care. And although Black and Latino children are less likely than white children to get mental health treatment for depression, they made up the largest increases in the proportion of youth experiencing suicidal ideation between 2019 and 2020, the report said.

Advocates say the coronavirus pandemic worsened an already existing mental health crisis devastating young people. The percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who reported a past-year major depressive episode doubled over the past 10 years, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 


Ohio set new record for overdose deaths in 2020, CDC reports

The toll of fatal drug overdoses last year hit Ohio even worse than initially thought, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Source: “Capitol Insider: As feared, Ohio smashes record for drug overdose deaths last year,” Columbus Dispatch, July 16).

The new figures showed that the agency projected Ohio to hit 5,215 drug deaths — fourth in the U.S. for the nation's seventh-largest state — breaking the record of 4,854 set in 2017. The CDC warned that the 2020 figure will grow; the current total is regarded as underreported due to incomplete data.

In 2014, Ohio led the country in overdose deaths — although the 2020 total is some 2.5 times higher.

A big jump was feared by many because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Indeed, overdose deaths for the nation as a whole increased every month last year, the CDC data show.

In all, the U.S. saw 93,331 people die from drug overdoses in 2020, a 29.4% leap over 2019.


Drug use harm reduction programs get boost in federal funds

Following a surge of overdoses during the pandemic, Congress, for the first time, has appropriated funds specifically for programs that distribute clean syringes and other supplies meant to protect people who use them (Source: “Helping Drug Users Survive, Not Abstain: ‘Harm Reduction’ Gains Federal Support,” New York Times, June 27).

Such programs have long come under attack for enabling drug use, but President Biden has made expanding harm-reduction efforts one of his drug policy priorities — the first president to do so. The American Rescue Act includes $30 million specifically for evidence-based harm reduction services, the first time Congress has appropriated funds specifically for that purpose. The funding, while modest, is a victory for the programs, both symbolically and practically, as they often run on shoestring budgets.

Still, many elected officials and communities continue to resist equipping people with supplies for drug use, including the recent addition of test strips to check drugs for the presence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which shows up in most overdose deaths. Some also say that syringes from harm reduction programs end up littering neighborhoods or that the programs cause an increase in crime. Researchers dispute both claims.


Ohio’s plan for targeted naloxone distribution raises questions

Ohio’s plan to launch a targeted deployment of naloxone is being questioned by one of the state’s partners that says it does not distribute the drug to communities most in need (Source: “Ohio's plan to distribute an anti-OD drug triggers questions, claims of racial bias,” Cincinnati Enquirer via Columbus Dispatch, May 12).

The idea in sending 60,000 doses of the antidote for an opioid overdose to 23 counties is to get ahead of a usual summertime rise in overdoses. Yet one of its partners in distributing the naloxone questions the equity of the plan, calling it racially biased.

Harm Reduction Ohio says the state’s plan excludes some areas that have high overdose death rates for Black Ohioans. It also charges the plan gives an insufficient amount of the drug to rural areas.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will use $2.5 million in general revenue for naloxone to go to the 23 counties it identified with 80% of overdose deaths in Ohio. The plan, announced May 5 with RecoveryOhio and the Ohio Department of Health, included a list of ZIP codes in the counties "demonstrating the highest need for enhanced overdose reversal supplies among residents."

The state's analysis used overdose death counts, hospital emergency department overdose visits and population counts to help figure out where to deploy naloxone, officials said.

Harm Reduction Ohio, though, provided a list of the ZIP codes that had the most Black overdose deaths per capita from 2018-2020 because of a growing rate of overdose deaths among people who are Black. The death rate comes from an analysis of Ohio Health Department death data from 2018-2020, done for Harm Reduction Ohio by Orman Hall, a former drug policy adviser to Gov. John Kasich. 


Ohio drug overdose deaths top 5,000 in 2020

Drug overdoses killed more Ohioans in 2020 than in at least the previous 14 years, a grim milestone likely made possible by the pandemic (Source: “'Every death is a heartache:' More than 5,000 Ohioans died of a drug overdose in 2020,” Columbus Dispatch, May 7).

At least 5,001 Ohioans died of overdoses last year, according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis of mortality data from the Ohio Department of Health as of Tuesday.  The total number of overdose deaths in 2020 is likely to increase since county coroners have six months to investigate, meaning 2020 overdose deaths could climb further.

The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably contributed to the rise of overdoses in 2020, said Lori Criss, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The pandemic changed life as Ohioans knew it, forcing many into isolation to stop the spread of the virus. In difficult times, it's more common for people to turn to drugs, or for those in recovery to relapse, Criss said.

Lockdowns across the world also led to one drug flooding the market: fentanyl. Fentanyl was readily available, is easy to transport and is often discreetly hidden in mail. Fentanyl was a factor in 81% of 2020 overdose deaths, Criss said.


Drug overdose deaths up by nearly 30% in 2020, according to new CDC data

The U.S. drug overdose death toll climbed nearly 30% in 2020, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Source: “US drug overdose deaths climbed during early months of pandemic: CDC data,” The Hill, April 14).

The CDC data shows that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period that started in October 2019 and ended in September 2020 — the most recent statistics, which were published on Wednesday. 

Overall, the preliminary data found a 29% increase in overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in September 2020, when compared to the year period ending in September 2019.

The largest increases in drug overdose deaths occurred in the 12-month periods that ended in April and May 2020, months early in the pandemic when many states had some form of shutdown in place and more workers lost jobs. 


Study: Teens who try drugs, alcohol more likely to develop addiction than those who are older

Adolescents and teenagers who experiment with marijuana and prescription drugs are more likely to get hooked on them than young people who try these drugs for the first time when they are college-aged or older, according to a new analysis of federal data (Source: “Teenage Brains May Be Especially Vulnerable to Marijuana and Other Drugs,” New York Times, March 29).

The research suggests that young people may be particularly vulnerable to the intoxicating effects of certain drugs and that early exposure might prime their brains to desire them. The findings have implications for public health policymakers, who in recent years have called for increased screening and preventive measures to reverse a sharp rise in marijuana vaping among teenagers.

The new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, focused on two age groups: adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 and young adults aged 18 to 25. Alcohol was by far the most commonly used substance in both groups: A quarter of adolescents and 80% of young adults said they had used it. About half of young adults said they had tried cannabis or tobacco. But among adolescents, that number was smaller: Roughly 15% said they had experimented with cannabis, and 13% said they had tried tobacco.

Most troubling to the authors of the new study was how many people went on to develop a substance use disorder, indicating that their experimentation had spiraled into an addiction. The researchers found that within a year of first trying marijuana, 11% of adolescents had become addicted to it, compared to 6.4 % of young adults. Even more striking was that within three years of first trying the drug, 20% of adolescents became dependent on it, almost double the number of young adults.


Ban on menthol cigarettes, long marketed to Black Americans, gains momentum

Banning menthol cigarettes appears to be gaining political momentum at the federal, state and local levels (Source: “Menthol Cigarettes Kill Many Black People. A Ban May Finally Be Near.,” New York Times, March 22).

Black smokers smoke less but die of heart attacks, strokes and other causes linked to tobacco use at higher rates than white smokers do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 85% of Black smokers use Newport, Kool and other menthol brands that are aggressively marketed to Black Americans and are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than plain tobacco, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is also now growing momentum in Congress to enact a ban. In states and municipalities across the country, Black public health activists have been organizing support and getting new laws passed at the state and local level. Public opposition among white parents to all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, has brought new resources to the issue. And the FDA is under a court order to respond to a citizens’ petition to ban menthol by April 29.


Researchers close in on potential treatment for meth addiction

Researchers think they may have found the first medication treatment for meth addiction, a significant step toward stemming the increase in overdose deaths seen in recent years (Source: “Study identifies first potential treatment for meth addiction,” The Hill, Jan. 13).

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of two medications may be a safe and effective treatment for adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder.

The phase three clinical trial studied the effects of the combination of Naltrexone, which is approved to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, on adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder. It compared the effects to a control group of patients receiving placebos.

Patients receiving the drug combination responded at a significantly higher rate than those in the control group and reported fewer cravings and improvements in their lives.

“We’re very excited about the results because until now, despite a lot of research that has gone into the field, there has not been any successful trials for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction that involve medications,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which conducted the trial.