Opioids

Give Ohioans time to listen to one another and they are capable of developing a plan to turn around the addiction crisis. So why isn’t it happening?

Journalists from the Your Voice Ohio media collaborative of nearly 40 print, radio, television and web news outlets met with several hundred people across the state from late 2017 well into 2018. The journalists were with the people, at the table, listening and sharing different perspectives on the crisis killing 4,000 in the state annually.

Attorneys handling hundreds of lawsuits over the opioid crisis say they’re making progress in discussions between local governments and drug companies.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster held a brief public hearing today to discuss the suits brought by cities, counties, Native American tribes and others against drug makers and distributors.

President Donald Trump has called the opioid crisis a national health emergency, ravaging Appalachian states like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.  That’s helped put the spotlight on the role doctors play in prescribing powerful pain relievers that sometimes lead to addiction and overdose deaths. 

A former Warren County physician will get a stinging reminder on Monday that his medical career is over, and that his freedom is being taken away.  Fred Gott will be sentenced in federal court for overprescribing powerful painkillers, including fentanyl and methadone.  The case against the 66-year-old heart doctor started to build in 2012.


A few months ago, Kourtnaye Sturgeon helped save someone's life. She was driving in downtown Indianapolis when she saw people gathered around a car on the side of the road. Sturgeon pulled over and a man told her there was nothing she could do: Two men had overdosed on opioids and appeared to be dead.

"I kind of recall saying, 'No man, I've got Narcan,' " she says, referring to the brand- name version of the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. "Which sounds so silly, but I'm pretty sure that's what came out."

With the opioid crisis killing an estimated 11 Ohioans a day, state medical boards are rolling out additional rules for doctors and other prescribers who have patients dealing with long-term and acute pain. The guidelines create new hurdles to jump over before a doctor can prescribe opioid-based painkillers. 

To the untrained, the evidence looks promising for a new medical device to ease opioid withdrawal. A small study shows that people feel better when the device, an electronic nerve stimulator called the Bridge, is placed behind their ear.

The company that markets the Bridge is using the study results to promote its use to anyone who will listen: policymakers, criminal justice officials and health care providers.

The message is working.

mitch mcconnell
Lisa Gillespie / WFPL

Kentucky employers and addiction treatment providers are throwing their weight behind Senator Mitch McConnell’s opioid bill introduced last week in the U.S. Senate.

first step home
provided

First Step Home is on the front lines of the opiate epidemic and is successfully helping women return to the community drug-free, as contributing members of society.

Drew was in his early 30s. His medical history included alcohol abuse, but he had been sober for several months when he became my patient.

His previous doctor had given him a prescription for Ativan, or lorazepam, which is frequently used to allay tremors and seizures from alcohol withdrawal.

It was a scheduling mishap that led Kourtnaye Sturgeon to help save someone’s life. About four months ago, Sturgeon drove to downtown Indianapolis for a meeting. She was a week early.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there,” she said.


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has introduced a bill aimed at addressing the impact the opioid epidemic is having on the nation’s workforce.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Reentry, or CAREER Act, creates a pilot program focused on the states most devastated by substance abuse. The legislation encourages local businesses and treatment groups to form partnerships. McConnell said having stable employment is about more than a paycheck and supporting a family.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

It's too early to tell if Hamilton County's needle exchange program may be making a difference in local HIV infections. The number of new cases in the first quarter of this year is less than the same period last year. But more of the cases come from intravenous drug use (IDU).

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The newest countywide heroin quick response team (QRT) is up and running. Team members made their first visits Tuesday using a donated Ford Explorer.

The U.S. Surgeon General has issued an advisory, encouraging more Americans to carry the overdose reversing drug naloxone.

It comes in the form of an injection or a nasal spray, known as Narcan, and is regularly carried by firefighters, EMTs and police officers, but the antidote is also becoming more and more common in Ohio schools.

In Lisbon, Education is More Than English and Math

Students at David Anderson Junior and Senior High School in Lisbon, Ohio, file into the auditorium on a Thursday morning.

This story comes from The Ohio Center For Investigative Journalism. Find out about local events focused on solutions to the opioid crisis below.

The most dangerous time for Cincinnati heroin addicts is not a typical party time: 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. For Columbus, it’s 6 p.m. on Thursdays, and in Akron, 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

No one in Kentucky is more than one person removed from the opioid epidemic, according to state health officials meeting Monday with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. The visit comes just days after Adams' call for more people to carry the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

As opioid-related deaths have continued to climb, naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses, has become an important part of the public health response.

When people overdosing struggle to breathe, naloxone can restore normal breathing and save their lives. But the drug has to be given quickly.

On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone.

As opiate deaths continue to climb in Ohio, there’s another deadly trend that’s apparently gaining popularity – drug combinations. 

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It’s a chilly March afternoon in Marysville, Ohio, and I’m riding around on a golf cart with Clara Golding Kent, the public information officer for the Ohio Reformatory for Women. It’s right after "count," when officials make sure the women serving time at Ohio's oldest prison are where they're supposed to be.

Appearing with Mayor Andrew Ginther in Columbus on Monday, Richard Cordray announced his plan to combat the opioid epidemic in Ohio.

A health care association is touting what its members believe to be a clear path Ohioans can take to cut down on opioid addiction. This path would take a culture change when it comes to the reputation of alternative medicine.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The numbers are in, and they aren't good.

Staying Sober And The Role Of Recovery Housing

Mar 15, 2018
Pixabay.com

The discussion about helping people addicted to opioids often focuses on getting them into treatment.  But experts in the field of recovery housing say the conversation needs to go farther, to lifelong sobriety.  They say recovery housing can provide the first foundation of support for staying clean and sober.

law enforcement officials behind a podium
Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Updated March 9, 2018 at 4:55 p.m.

Nine of 12 individuals charged in U.S. District Court in Ohio in a narcotics and money laundering scheme are in custody following a year-long FBI investigation. More than 40 others are charged in San Diego, Columbus, Lexington, Kansas and Washington in a case with ties to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.

Pixabay

With the opioid crisis continuing to ravage Ohio, the state issued a $10,000 challenge. Tuesday, five winners were announced, including Cincinnati's Kinematechs and a University of Dayton researcher.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Hamilton County's needle exchange program is fully operational. And officials are hoping it will do more than just allow people to trade dirty syringes for clean ones.

Wikimedia Commons

Random drug tests are routine for private schools but few area public schools are doing it, even with the opioid crisis. Among the reasons they give for skipping testing include: it's not the best way to partner with families, there's a lack of scientific data on effectiveness, and the issue just hasn't come up.

Jim Nolan/WVXU

With three new members, Cincinnati City Council is sworn in and gets to work, the region continues to suffer the effects of the opioid epidemic, Macy's announces the closing of its downtown store, the Ohio governor and senate races take shape and FC Cincinnati still waits to hear about its bid for a Major League Soccer franchise.

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Much of the reporting on the heroin crisis is focused on the tragic aspects of the epidemic, leaving people feeling helpless and hopeless without an end in sight. A local organization, the Urban Minority Alcohol & Drug Abuse Outreach Program (UMADAOP), says getting out a message of help and hope is equally as important as telling the story of risk and loss.

How Local Colleges Are Helping Fight Heroin

Nov 7, 2017
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This Friday, November 10, Northern Kentucky University will host the inaugural conference of the Ohio River Valley Addiction Research Consortium (ORVARC). The conference will focus on evidence-based research on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

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