A new study published in the journal Health Affairs shows a significant reduction in prescription painkiller use as well as other prescribed drugs in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. 

Midwestern states have adopted a variety of intervention strategies designed to combat the opioid epidemic and manage the risks associated with injection drug use. These harm reduction efforts include syringe exchange programs; medication-assisted therapy; overdose prevention; public education campaigns; and policies and laws designed to enhance collaboration among advocates, law enforcement and health care professionals.

In a key action to increase access to medication assisted treatment for persons addicted to opioid drugs, this week the Department of Health and Human Services released a final regulation to allow physicians to increase from 100 to 275 the number of patients for whom they can prescribe buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is one of three FDA-approved medications to treat addiction. It is addictive and can be abused. Sometimes it is combined with naloxone, sold under the brand name Suboxone, to decrease its euphoric  properties. Buprenorphine is covered by state Medicaid programs, although certain restrictions and time limits may exist in some states. 

On June 2, 2016, Alaska became the 11th state to limit the sale of cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan to consumers age 18 and older. Found in common over-the-counter drugs like Robitussin and NyQuil, dextromethorphan is abused in the highest rates by children aged 12-17.

Kratom, the popular name for leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree, is a botanical supplement that has grown in popularity and usage across the United States in the last few years.  Originating from Southeast Asia and sold in gas stations, ‘head shops’ , and through a variety of online vendors, kratom has gained an array of users who seek it’s mood elevating and pain reducing properties.  In addition to the rise in popularity of kratom, it has increasingly caught the attention of state lawmakers concerned about possible negative consequences associated with unregulated sale of the non-FDA approved plant.

HIV and Hepatitis C, both highly infectious diseases, continue to spread in some states and among some parts of the population. Several states introduced legislation in 2015 and 2016 that explicitly allows needle exchange programs as a means to prevent and control potential public health crises.

When their son Michael passed away, Avi and Julie Israel of Buffalo, N.Y., were distraught. Michael had suffered from an addiction to painkillers and in the depths of misery, had taken his own life. Knowing they weren’t alone in grappling with this issue and compelled to respond, the Israels decided to act. They established an organization called Save the Michaels of the World to increase public awareness, especially among parents.

President Barack Obama recently announced new actions his administration will take to address the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in the nation. In visits across the nation, the president heard from people dealing head on with how difficult it is to get treatment for addiction. “It comes down to the fact that lawmakers have traditionally blamed those with substance use disorders for their disorders. . . (Lawmakers) want to fix it but do not want to pay for the treatment. That is the bottom line,” said Debbie Plotnick, vice president of mental health and systems advocacy at Mental Health America. But policy efforts to address the epidemic aren’t limited to the federal level. States are looking to expand treatment access and attract more mental health professionals into treatment facilities.

From economic and workforce development, to infrastructure and education, any number of items could have dominated discussions during the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, or NGA, in February. Yet, as the governors began to immerse themselves in committee reports and assemble a list of priorities for their meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, it was the issue of opioid abuse and overdose deaths that dominated the agenda.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday it will require “black box” warnings on all immediate-release opioid pain medications. The target of the warning is prescribers.

Pages