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Heroin Increase Tied to Opioids- Pain News

Heroin Increase Tied to Opioids- Pain News

Can the concern over an increasing use of heroin actually mean that a discussion about opioid prescription practices might ensue?

The Center for Disease Control gave a hint this week. In a statement issued by its director, Tom Frieden, MD MPH it seemed the agency wants to use the heroin problem as a way to address opioid prescribing practices.

“Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin. To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response—to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin.”
The CDC  links a rampant heroin addiction epidemic across the United States to the rise in people who are addicted to prescription opioids. Those individuals addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin, according to the findings.

The findings, which appeared in a Vital Signs report published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade among young adults aged 18–25 years. While the increase has affected most demographic groups, the report said the greatest increases were occurring in groups with historically lower rates of heroin use, including women and people with private insurance and higher incomes.

CDC is urging health care providers and states to lead efforts that can curb the growing epidemic, including addressing prescription painkiller addiction, increasing access to substance abuse treatment services, and expanding access to and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths.

According to a story on, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations said it has seen more states implementing policies giving pharmacists prescriptive authority for naloxone. California, Idaho, New Mexico, and Vermont have a statewide naloxone protocol or prescriptive authority for pharmacists. It includes a very specific outline for educating pharmacists on naloxone administration. North Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Connecticut are considering similar legislation.

In the meantime, for medical providers, how to treat the chronic pain patient in an atmosphere where federal agencies are ramping up the dialogue and pressure on prescribing opioids is a challenge.

Dr. Richard Radnovich, a nationally known pain medicine specialist from Boise, Idaho told us recently, “The problem is that we have blurred the lines between two distinct problems: chronic pain treatment and substance abuse. The DEA is concerned with the latter. Medical providers just need to do a good job with the former: that is, show that they are using opioids for a legitimate medical purpose; and provide adequate medical care and supervision.”

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