Pubdate: Thu, 14 Aug 2014
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2014 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Rich Lord


A four-month old panel aiming to stem the rise of prescription 
narcotic addiction and reduce overdose deaths has developed nearly a 
dozen initial recommendations and is probably a month away from its 
final report.

"We're really in the home stretch of our work," U.S. Attorney David 
Hickton said today at a meeting in his office of the Working Group on 
Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery. He urged 
the 18 members to "sprint to a final report in early September and 
start acting."

A preliminary report that was discussed, though not released, at the 
meeting called for:

* A strategic public relations plan including town hall meetings, 
media engagement, use of the Internet and social media and outreach 
to lawmakers.

* Overdose and relapse prevention education, especially for people 
leaving jails who might be at risk of returning to drugs.

* Better funded efforts to steer people who are leaving jail into 
addiction treatment.

* Creation of a central website with information on prevention and 
treatment of overdoses.

* More education on the dangers of prescription drug addiction for 
physicians, including efforts to hold accountable those who 
indiscriminately prescribe narcotics.

* Increased availability of naloxone, a medicine that can stop the 
overdose process and save lives.

* Better monitoring of providers of buprenorphine, a drug used to 
treat addicts, to make sure that patients are staying off of illicit 
drugs and unprescribed pills while using that medicine.

* Better treatment of addiction as a chronic disease, including 
smooth transitions from inpatient to outpatient rehabilitation services.

* Efforts to destigmatize the disease of drug addiction.

* Development of a regional database of overdoses.

Allegheny County associate medical examiner Ken Clark said that of 
the 1,138 deaths his office investigated in 2012, just over 
one-quarter were drug overdoses. Nearly half of those involved 
prescription drugs.

He said the overdose victims typically fell in either the 25-34 age 
range or the early 50s.

"I've been seeing a large wave of people over 50 coming in for the 
first time" for drug rehabilitation," added Neil Capretto, medical 
director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center, and a co-chair of the 
group. He said some appear to have become hooked on pain medication 
and then moved on to heroin when prescriptions ran out and street 
pills proved too expensive.

Mr. Hickton said the death Monday of comedian and actor Robin 
Williams reemphasized that "for far too long, we have ignored the 
connection between mental health and addiction.

"I don't think anyone would call Robin Williams a junkie," Mr. 
Hickton said. "But I think we all know that he took his own life when 
he could not quiet his mind" after years of up-and-down struggles 
with mental illness and addiction.
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