Opioids

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In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders.

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A southern West Virginia judge has ordered a physician to stop operating his practice as a pain clinic and prohibited him from prescribing narcotics including opioid painkillers.

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Veterans are two times more likely than the civilian population to develop an addiction to opioids. The Veterans Health Administration, or VA, released a new set of guidelines in 2013 called The Opioid Safety Initiative, which concluded that opioids are not the best treatment for most types of chronic pain. Instead, VA doctors are encouraged to first advise their patients to try alternative therapies, like yoga, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.

Inside Appalachia's Roxy Todd spent some time at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center to learn more about the Mindful Yoga class— one of the alternative therapies they offer veterans who are suffering with chronic pain. 


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It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic started. Appalachia has been called ground zero for this crisis, and the Mountain State leads the country in drug overdose deaths. This episode of Inside Appalachia explores how the epidemic is affecting veterans, who are twice as likely to become addicted to opioids than the general, or civilian, population. 


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Taking a pill to ease chronic pain is easy, at least at first. But it comes with side effects – the most well-known of which is probably addiction. One alternative to opioids for chronic pain is physical therapy.

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It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic first exploded across Appalachia, and now doctors are shifting away from prescribing opioids for long-term pain. 

But this shift away from pills has met resistance from some  doctors and patients.

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll hear why addiction hit Appalachia so hard. We'll also find out what the medical community is doing to fight the pain pill epidemic.

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  A new state law authorizes school nurses and other trained and authorized personnel at West Virginia schools to administer drugs to counteract opioid overdoses by students without having to first contact parents.

The bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.

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Members in the House of Delegates have considered a number of bills this legislative session that increase the penalties for breaking various laws. At least three of those bills have focused on drug crimes which Republican lawmakers say is in response to the state’s substance abuse epidemic.

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New research out of Johns Hopkins University has found that more than forty percent of people receiving medication for opioid addiction were also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers during the time of treatment.

The researchers looked at pharmacy claims for more than 38,000 new buprenorphine users who filled prescriptions between 2006 and 2013 in 11 states. Buprenorphine is a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

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She asked to not be identified. And it’s understandable given the stigma attached to addiction. For this story, we’ll call her “Mary.”

Mary lives in eastern Kentucky and has struggled with an addiction that began with painkillers and progressed to heroin.

“As soon as I opened my eyes, I had to get it,” Mary said. “And even when I did get it, then I had to think of the next way that I was going to get.”

Opioids
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The Cabell County Commission is considering whether to seek damages from opioid manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, pharmacists and prescribing doctors for the prescription painkillers that fueled the state's drug epidemic.

The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reports that a law firm urged the commission Thursday to declare that distribution of pain medications a public nuisance and hire it to pursue the case and take 30 percent of any recoveries.

While millions of addictive pain pills flooded West Virginia, a generation of Appalachians grew up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs. Hear some of their stories on this week's classic episode of Inside Appalachia.

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The group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care hosted a conference Tuesday at Marshall University focused on the state's opioid epidemic.

The conference titled “Innovative Solutions to the Opioid Epidemic,” brought together groups from all over the state as well as national experts to discuss ways of dealing with the epidemic. Groups like the Cabell-Huntington Health Department presented their needle exchange effort and Martinsburg Police presented their Martinsburg Initiative. Dr. Anita Everett is the Chief Medical Officer for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and she was the featured speaker. Everett said it’s great to a see a state of communities trying new things and wanting to work together.

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For a generation of Appalachians, growing up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs is a way of life. On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear from men and women who have experienced the effects of opioid addiction and of the innocence that this epidemic has claimed.

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West Virginia officials have approved a contract with a drug company they have accused of fueling the state's opioid problem.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the state health agency and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey approved the $657,000-a-year contract to allow Cardinal Health manage a pharmacy at a McDowell County hospital. The contract was approved even though both offices are suing the company.

Opioids
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  The leader of the federal Food and Drug Administration is headed to Charleston for a round-table discussion with top West Virginia officials about the state's opioid epidemic.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Monday that FDA Commissioner Robert Califf will attend the Tuesday event at the Department of Health and Human Resources.

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West Virginia prescribers and pharmacists have a new tool to track how potent a patient's combination of prescriptions is.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and the state Board of Pharmacy announced the state's launch of the morphine equivalency calculator in an effort to address the state's opioid abuse problem.

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Five drug wholesalers have agreed to a $4.2 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging that they shipped an excessive number of prescription opioids to West Virginia.

A news release from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Thursday announced the settlement with Anda Inc., The Harvard Drug Group, Associated Pharmacies, KeySource Medical Inc. and Quest Pharmaceuticals. As part of the settlement, they deny the lawsuit's allegations.

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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito introduced a federal bill Friday with bipartisan backing that would help newborns suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome have access to quality care.

The Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies Act, also known as CRIB, would recognize residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid.

This means the families whose newborns are born with NAS will be able to bill Medicaid for the services offered.