Cincinnati: A 7-Day Look into Heroin Addiction

by Pablo Bolanos on September 29, 2017

Advancements in technology allow us to experience more than just our own lives. Through the screens we hold, we passively watch, comment, and discuss as observers and bystanders. With the 24-hour news cycle and reality television, we can become desensitized and may even experience compassion fatigue, a side effect of vicariously experiencing trauma.

When it comes to headlines about drug abuse, specifically the growing opioid epidemic, we are familiar with the tragedies, but typically click away once we’ve consumed only a few sentences. It’s easier for us to detach from the loss of life on the news because we don’t see the off-camera reality.

One group of journalists sought to change that and recorded an up-close look into a week in the life of those affected by heroin and other opioids. The project—Seven Days of Heroin—sent out more than 60 reporters, photographers, and videographers from Cincinnati with a single goal: capture the lives of people affected by the crisis.

“We set out to do this project not to affirm or deny differing views on the cost of battling addiction and its impact. Rather, we set out to understand how it unfolds day in and day out. This project is as close as you can get to seeing how a neighbor, the guy at your local gas station, or even family member may be struggling with a substance use disorder,” said Peter Bhatia, Editor and Vice President, Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com.

This unique, comprehensive reporting consists of unedited moments in time, not just headlines. Read some raw excerpts examining a single week in our country’s epidemic in an area of our country hard hit by overdoses:

Monday, 9 a.m. The woman from St. Bernard looks confused, as if she’s unsure how she got here. She was on the floor of her friend’s house, barely breathing, less than 12 hours ago.

Tuesday 1:10 p.m. The [7-year old-girl] hasn’t been home since she found her mother slumped over the toilet last year, high on heroin and barely conscious. Her father died of an overdose earlier this year.

Wednesday, 1:42 p.m. She’s 25 and addicted to the synthetic opiate [fentanyl.] She used to take heroin, but now she prefers the more powerful and more dangerous synthetic. Tall and fine-boned, Ali could be a model.

Thursday, 11 a.m. After years of addiction, Gaffney’s goals are modest. She wants to raise her child in a normal home. She wants a normal life.

Friday, 8:50 p.m. She’s starting to experience withdrawal symptoms, which are dangerous to her baby, so corrections officers are going to send her to the hospital. “How often do you use heroin during the pregnancy?” the medic asks. “Every day,” she says.

Saturday, 8:30 a.m. About 80 people are here, preparing to hand out thousands of pamphlets and door hangers packed with information about addiction and treatment. Some wear T-shirts proclaiming “NKY Hates Heroin,” or “Hope over Heroin.”

Sunday, 3:30 p.m. “Gracie? Wake up, Gracie,” one of them says, kneeling next to her. They rub her chest and continue setting up the IV. They talk about the possibility she took something even worse than heroin, like carfentanil, a synthetic opiate that’s blamed for a growing number of overdoses.

Journalism like this helps to expose the truth in our communities and attach faces to stories of lives in danger. After all, addiction is not a choice. If it was, it is safe to say that the majority of people would never choose it. Our society must respond with compassion and understanding and focus our efforts on recovery and rehabilitation to battle drug addiction.

Read the full Seven Days of Heroin report and watch the videos.

If you or someone you know is unable to stop using drugs or alcohol, seek a referral from your primary care physician or locate an addiction specialist from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Fighting Opioid Prescription Addiction

by Steve Beller on June 29, 2017

Opioid addiction can begin with the best of intentions, like managing pain. The middle-aged male visits the ER for a back sprain. A typical teenager has her wisdom teeth removed by the oral surgeon. To minimize discomfort, the healthcare professional may prescribe 20 or more hydrocodone pills. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), estimates that on average, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are written and dispensed each day in the U.S.

Addiction has skyrocketed as a result. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that in 2015, “Two million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain medicines and over 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose.” NIDA also found that the (negative) impact to the U.S. economy due to prescription opioid misuse to be more than $78 billion a year.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a new guideline in 2016 for the prescription of opioids. Primary-care providers are discouraged from turning to opioids to treat acute pain. The guideline advises doctors to “start low and go slow.” Doctors are urged to prescribe the lowest effective dose in the smallest quantity needed for the time period when pain is severe enough to warrant a narcotic. If an opioid is prescribed, the CDC recommends a faster-acting medication with a short duration of pain relief, rather than slower-acting, extended-release drugs with a longer duration. Adapting to these new guidance may prove challenging for doctors who, throughout their careers, practiced aggressive pain management.

State and the federal government are joining the fight by either evaluating or enacting legislation to limit opioid prescriptions. An article from Bloomberg View reports, “In New Jersey, a patient’s first course of opioids is now limited to five days (30 has been the norm) and the lowest effective dose. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate would limit first prescriptions to seven days. The Senate is also considering taxing prescription opioids to help pay for addiction-treatment services, as are lawmakers in Alaska and California.”

Our country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Media attention provides much needed awareness and entities like the CDC deliver education on how to identify, combat, and positively impact the growing issue. Where awareness and education fall short, guidelines and laws aimed at reshaping how physicians address pain management will make the biggest long-term impact. Because of all opioid- related deaths, nearly half of them involve a prescription.

Follow our blog to laern more about opioids and the impact of the opioid abuse.

For information on drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Mapping Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce

June 9, 2017Drug Testing

Which drugs are popular in my county? How does workplace drug use in my state compare to the rest of the country? Has drug use in the American workforce changed significantly during the past decade? Employers, media, government, and policymakers frequently look to Quest Diagnostics for insights about their specific geographies. These inquiries are especially […]

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Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12 Years

May 16, 2017Drug Testing

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) reveals insights into patterns of drug use among the American workforce. It has been published annually for more than 25 years as a public service for government, employers, policymakers, media, and the general public. This year’s report will be presented at the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association […]

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Prescription Misuse Epidemic Affects 7 in 10 Employers

May 11, 2017Drug Testing

As one of the nation’s leading safety advocates, the National Safety Council (NSC) spotlights issues in an effort to “eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.” The organization has identified prescription drug misuse as one of its key safety issues because of the […]

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Fentanyl Crisis Continues

April 26, 2017Drug Testing

Without the careful monitoring of a licensed physician, opioids can be deadly. The National Center on Health Statistics shows that in 2015 alone, more than 17,000 people died from opioid pain relievers, in addition to the 19,000 who died as a result of their use of heroin and other illicit opioids. In total, the percentage […]

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2017 National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 14, 2017News

An ambulance blazes by a sea of idling cars in the midst of evening rush-hour. Weaving through traffic, the EMT’s singular goal is to arrive at the emergency room as quickly as possible. The passenger is a victim of accidental prescription drug poisoning. This scenario plays out daily in cities across the country. In fact, […]

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By the Numbers: Heroin Positivity Continues to Rise

December 15, 2016By the Numbers

Our By the Numbers blog series takes a closer look at the numbers, facts, data, and outputs that impact workplace drug testing programs. In this post, we look at the heroin positivity rate. Headlines continue to put a spotlight on startling statistics about heroin addiction and sometimes feature shocking stories to warn the public of the drug’s dangers. The […]

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Helping to Keep Medical Professionals Drug-Free

October 26, 2016Drug Testing

Many individuals misuse prescription drugs to stay alert, self-medicate, increase energy or performance at work, and manage stress or pain. Substance abuse crosses all industries and professions, including healthcare. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reinforces this fact by saying, “The last people we would suspect of drug addiction are healthcare professionals—those people trusted with […]

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National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

October 14, 2016News

Many people use prescription medications as part of their daily routine to help treat disease and improve their health. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the most frequently prescribed drugs fall in the “therapeutic class,” which includes Analgesics, Antiheperlipidemic agents,  and Antidepressants like Zoloft and Lexapro. Prescription painkillers are […]

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