Articles/Stories

Pitt’s opioids task force releases recommendations

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | BY CAROLINE S. ENGELMAYER | JUNE 22, 2018

A University of Pittsburgh opioid task force has recommended that the school mobilize its research and treatment resources to fight addiction through initiatives ranging from partnerships with local medical centers to an on-campus space devoted to student recovery.

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Glimmers of hope in the opioid war

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 20, 2018

The devastating course of the opioid overdose crisis is such that a deep dive into the data usually is necessary to find any progress. But the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and the American Medical Association have reported developments that might indicate the beginning of a long-term positive trend.

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Erie County sues drugmakers over opioid epidemic

GO ERIE | BY MATTHEW RINK | JUNE 19, 2018 Erie County is taking aim at pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors over their role in the opioid epidemic. A lawsuit filed Monday in Erie County Common Pleas Court claims that several companies deceptively,...

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Heroin overdose hospitalizations increased 13 percent statewide in 2017

THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT | BY JOHN FINNERTY | JUNE 13, 2018

HARRISBURG – The number of people admitted to the hospital for treatment following heroin overdoses increased almost 13 percent from 2016 to 2017.

With the change, hospitalizations for heroin overdoses hit 1,753 in 2017, up from 1,555 in 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

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One measure shows overdose rates leveling

THE TIMES-TRIBUNE | BY JON O’CONNELL | JUNE 13, 2018

By one measure in the fight against drug addiction, the tables are turning.

Hospital admissions for opioid drug overdoses — that is, from heroin and prescription pain medicine — dropped by 35 percent in Lackawanna County and by 1 percent in Luzerne County from 2016 to 2017, according to data released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, or PHC4.

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Report: Good news, barely, on opioid hospital admissions

THE TIMES LEADER | BY MARK GUYDISH | JUNE 13, 2018

According to a new report, hospitalization for opioid overdoses in Luzerne County dropped from 2016 to 2017. But the actual numbers went from 73 admissions to 72.

The report also shows over both years combined, the overdose admission rate per 100,000 residents was comfortably lower than the state rate: 54.5 admissions per 100,000 locally compared to the state rate of 64.6.

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Opioid addiction common in seniors

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | BY ERIC MARK | JUNE 10, 2018

You are never too old to suffer from addiction, especially addiction to opioids.

That is the message from treatment specialists and professionals at all levels.

The oldest person to die of an overdose in Luzerne County in 2017 was Paul Sorokas, who was 75.

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County’s oldest overdose victim in 2017 was 75

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | BY ERIC MARK | JUNE 10, 2018

Addiction can ruin or end a life at any age.

Paul Sorokas was 75 when he died on April 1, 2017, the oldest person to die from a drug overdose in Luzerne County last year.

Sorokas, a fun-loving but hard-working man known as “Bobo” who lived in Wilkes-Barre most of his life, did physical work, including a long tenure at the manufacturing company InterMetro. He suffered a serious back injury on the job about 25 years ago, according to his younger brother, Richard Sorokas.

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National drop in opioid prescribing mirrored in Pennsylvania, doctors’ group says

THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | BY RICH LORD | MAY 31, 2018

The nation, like Pennsylvania, is seeing a drop in opioid prescribing, which the American Medical Association attributed Thursday to “physician leadership.”

The AMA in a release touted a 22 percent drop in the prescribing of opioids from 2013 to 2017 — amounting to 55 million fewer bottles of the addictive narcotics last year, compared to five years ago. The dip from 2016 to 2017 alone was 9 percent, the doctors’ group reported.

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Allegheny County Health Department gets $350K grant to combat opioid crisis

TRIBLIVE | BY THERESA CLIFT | MAY 29, 2018

The Hillman Foundation has given a $350,000 grant to the Allegheny County Health Department to help fund the department’s outreach in communities affected by the opioid crisis.

The funds will be used to conduct in-depth interviews to help come up with intervention strategies, and some will be given out as mini grants, a county news release said.

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Bucks County to sue Big Pharma over opioid crisis

PHILLY.COM | BY AUBREY WHELAN | MAY 29, 2018

Following a slew of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers by local and state governments across the country, Bucks County officials announced Tuesday that they are filing suit against three opioid distributors and 14 pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin.

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Fentanyl driving opioid crisis in Berks, nearby counties

THE READING EAGLE | BY FORD TURNER | 04.25.2018

The drug overdose crisis in the seven-county region centered on Berks took 938 lives in 2017, an increase of about 11 percent from the previous year that was fueled by abuse of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid once used primarily to treat chronic or cancer-related pain.

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In Opioid Epidemic, Some Cities Strain to Afford OD Antidote

STANDARD SPEAKER | 04.12.2018

BALTIMORE (AP) — On a Baltimore street corner, public health workers hand out a life-saving overdose antidote to residents painfully familiar with the ravages of America’s opioid epidemic. But the training wraps up quickly; all the naloxone inhalers are claimed within 20 minutes.

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Opioid addiction costs employers $2.6B a year for care

THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | 04.5.2018

A new report shows large employers spent $2.6 billion to treat opioid addiction and overdoses in 2016, an eight-fold increase since 2004. More than half went to treat employees’ children.

The analysis released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation finds such spending cost companies and workers about $26 per enrollee in 2016.

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Groups raising funds for Narcan training

THE CITIZENS' VOICE | 05.04.2018 WILKES-BARRE — Local community groups are organizing a basketball tournament to help raise money for Narcan training and drug recovery efforts in Luzerne County. Erik Coolbaugh Foundation and United We Stand, Divided We Fall are...

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Jeannette leads Westmoreland in overdose deaths, officials look to reverse trend

TRIBLIVE | 04.03.2018

Jeannette officials have asked the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force to help them deal with a troubling trend in overdose deaths revealed in the coroner’s analysis of 2017 cases.

The city had 21 fatal overdoses last year, surpassing the county’s largest municipality, Hempfield Township, which had 19. Yet Hempfield has more than 41,300 residents, more than quadruple Jeannette’s 9,300.

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His family was ‘dismantled’ by addiction. And it can happen to anyone.

PENNLIVE | 03.30.2018

It sounds like the perfect childhood, the one every kid should have. Dad was a blue-collar worker who coached the kids’ baseball teams.

Mom was a homemaker and a stickler for demanding her three sons complete their homework and excel in school. She was involved with the PTA, cheered in the stands at sporting events and led her family to church services.

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City joins opioid lawsuit

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | 03.30.2018

WILKES-BARRE — The city will join other government agencies across the nation in suing drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors that officials claim are responsible for making the opioid epidemic possible by “dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opioids” into the community.

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Lackawanna sees surge in babies born addicted to drugs

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | 03.28.2018

Nearly 3 percent of Lackawanna County infants hospitalized in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 were born addicted to drugs, a new study shows.

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017, 118 Lackawanna County newborns were hospitalized with neonatal abstinence syndrome — an array of problems that occur in infants exposed to addictive drugs, often opioids, while in the womb.

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Specialist tells business community: Addiction ‘cycle’ often begins with legal pain pills

THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT | 03.29.2018

Marlene Singer took the message of addiction to the local business community on Wednesday, tracing the pathway from painkillers to heroin to the risk of a fatal overdose.

“Opioids, whether they are prescription pain pills or heroin or any other type of opioid, all work in … the part of the brain that deals with breathing, heart rate, and that’s where it becomes so dangerous,” Singer, a community health and employee wellness coordinator with Conemaugh Health System, told those at a luncheon hosted by the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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Wilkes-Barre announces lawsuit against opioid makers, distributors

THE TIMES LEADER | 03.29.2018

WILKES-BARRE — Following the lead of Luzerne County and other cities and counties nationwide, Wilkes-Barre announced Thursday it is suing five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related firms plus three of the largest wholesale drug distributors.

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Fox Chapel man’s death linked to anti-diarrheal overdose

PENNLIVE | 03.29.2018

A Fox Chapel man found dead in his home in November died from an overdose of an anti-diarrhea medication that can be used to mimic the high of opioids, medical examiner records show.

Arjun Patel, 29, was pronounced dead Nov. 8. A notice from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner earlier this week lists Patel’s cause of death as loperamide poisoning.

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Westmoreland overdose deaths taper off, trend could be regional

TRIBLIVE | 03.28.2018

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha released the 2017 year-end statistical report Wednesday that shows the county reached the predicted overdose death tally of 193, a new record.

But it is what last year’s records don’t show that has him optimistic: drug deaths are declining.

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2 men charged in Montco with ordering deadly opioid carfentanil from China

THE INQUIRER | 03.28.2018

In a drug bust described as the first of its kind in Montgomery County, two men were arrested Monday night and charged with ordering an extremely potent synthetic opioid through the mail from China and distributing it locally, authorities announced Wednesday.

Jamil Chapman, 26, and his nephew Nasai Chapman, 23, of Collingdale, Delaware County, are accused of ordering and distributing fentanyl and its deadlier cousin carfentanil, a narcotic powerful enough to tranquilize elephants. Prosecutors said that 300 grams of fentanyl were seized and that the pair could be linked to 400 to 500 grams of carfentanil shipped to the United States from China.

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Safe injection site to get airing in Philly neighborhood most scarred by opioids

THE INQUIRER | 03.27.2018

In Kensington, this much is clear: No other neighborhood in Philadelphia has seen more overdose deaths, or more visible suffering amid a city opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,200 lives in 2017. Along with neighboring Fairhill, it occupies less than 2 percent of Philadelphia’s land area, but 18 percent of all city overdoses occurred in that small space, according to an Inquirer analysis of city data.

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Schools can be first defense against addiction

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | 03.26.2018

Spenser Flowers went from homecoming king to overdose victim in 27 months. At the Hampton Township School District, his death hammered home the reality that even if there’s no sign of pills or stamp bags in the halls or bleachers, graduates will soon run into opioids, some will try them, and a few will die.

“You’re haunted by that: Someone so young, dying from something that could’ve been prevented,” said Hampton’s high school principal, Marguerite Imbarlina. “That was somewhat of a wake-up call. … We need to try every avenue, because every kid is different.”

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Parents and student peers can help prevent high school opioid use

THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | 03.26.2018

Parents can find reasons for hope, and fear, in the latest research on teens and drugs. They can also find more nuanced do’s and don’ts than their predecessors typically got during the “Just Say No” era.

Take 1,000 kids ages 12 to 17, and chances are you’ll find just six opioid abusers, according to research out of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, published this month in the magazine Pediatrics. But in the 18-25 group, the prevalence of opioid addiction is roughly double that.

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Foundation hosts event to combat addiction at home, in schools

THE TIMES-TRIBUNE | 03.23.2018

MAYFIELD — Standing among a group of parents at Mayfield Elementary School, Carrie Chase read a letter from her 7-year-old great-niece about the effects of addiction on families.

“Mommy, when you go away, I feel sad and a little bit mad. I wish you will stop doing bad things like going to jail, or do drugs, or when you don’t play with me when you come home from jail,” Chase read.

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Outreach group knows all too well the hardships of addiction

BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES | BY MARION CALLAHAN

Parents from Bucks County’s How to Save a Life Foundation go to Kensington at least twice a month to rescue drug users from the streets and get them into treatment. Since losing her son from addiction in 2006, Marti Hottenstein and her group have helped dozens of users find recovery.

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Opioid epidemic could spark HIV outbreak, health experts fear

TRIB LIVE | BY MEGAN GUZA

Pennsylvania’s widespread opioid epidemic, combined with controversial drug paraphernalia laws and the lack of needle exchange programs in rural areas, could spark a devastating and costly HIV outbreak, health experts fear.

HIV outbreaks have hit several parts of the country, including rural Scott County, Indiana, which could cost the state more than $100 million.

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Opioid epidemic could spark HIV outbreak, health experts fear

TRIBLIVE | 03.18.2018

Pennsylvania’s widespread opioid epidemic, combined with controversial drug paraphernalia laws and the lack of needle exchange programs in rural areas, could spark a devastating and costly HIV outbreak, health experts fear.

HIV outbreaks have hit several parts of the country, including rural Scott County, Indiana, which could cost the state more than $100 million.

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Fentanyl-cocaine combo taking lives in Western Pa.

TRIB-LIVE | BY CHUCK BIEDKA

A deadly blend of cocaine and the powerful opioid fentanyl is appearing on Western Pennsylvania streets and autopsy tables, according to police, coroners and other experts.

The combination is a modern “speedball,” with stimulant and depressant drugs like the stuff that killed actor John Belushi in 1982 and thousands of others, said a UPMC addiction medicine specialist, Dr. Antoine Douaihy.

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Hospital volunteers soothe newborns withdrawing from opiates

OBSERVER-REPORTER | BY TRISTA THURSTON

PITTSBURGH – On a chilly Valentine’s Day morning, Beverly Thornton dons gloves and a hospital gown and picks up a baby she’s been soothing for the last few hours. She’s wrapping up her three-hour shift as a “cuddler” in the neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC-Magee-Womens Hospital.

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Grandparents caring for grandchildren as parents battle addiction

OBSERVER-REPORTER | BY KAREN MANSFIELD

At a time when they thought they would be spending their retirement traveling or pursuing hobbies, a growing number of grandparents find themselves instead raising grandchildren, a consequence of the opioid epidemic.

Across America, about 2.7 million grandparents have been thrown into the role of day-to-day caregiver – changing diapers, making lunches, carpooling and attending PTA meetings – because their adult children are struggling with opioid addiction.

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Delivering death: Getting tougher on opioid dealers of all kinds

THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE | 03.08.2018

When a bullet-riddled body turns up in a gutter, there’s no question that a police investigation will follow. When a person dies of a drug overdose, however, police often dismiss it as a case of self-harm and close the file. That’s a mindset that should change so that victims’ families get justice and so murderers — make no mistake, dealers in fatal overdoses are murderers — get taken off the streets.

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Group teaches local students about dangers of drug abuse

THE CITIZEN’S VOICE | BILL WELLOCK

WILKES-BARRE — Amid flashing lights and Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” came the sobering stories of opioid addiction: records numbers of overdoses, a couple who overdosed with their children in their home, a pregnant woman charged after using drugs.

It was the beginning of a presentation from DJ Choices, a group that teaches students about the dangers of drug abuse.

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Pa. emergency rooms see 81% spike in opioid overdoses, CDC reports

LEHIGH VALLEY LIVE | SARA K. SATULLO

New data released by the CDC Tuesday shows America’s opioid epidemic is growing at an alarming rate and Pennsylvania is one of the hardest hit areas.

Nationally, in just one year, opioid overdoses jumped by 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control report.

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