opioids

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Kentucky is spending $500,000 dollars to create a telephone helpline for people with opioid addiction.

Federal health officials Tuesday issued a warning about kratom, a herbal product being promoted as a safe alternative to opioids for pain that is also marketed for treating addiction, anxiety and depression.

The Food and Drug Administration says there's insufficient evidence the supplement works to treat addiction or other problems and cited growing evidence it can be dangerous. Kratom may cause seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

Jon McHann, 56, got started on prescription opioids the way a lot of adults in the U.S. did: He was in pain following an accident. In his case, it was a fall.

"I hit my tailbone just right, and created a severe bulging disc" that required surgery, McHann says.

McHann, who lives in Smithville, Tenn., expected to make a full recovery and go back to work as a heavy haul truck driver. But 10 years after his accident, he's still at home.

The goal is simple: a drug that can relieve chronic pain without causing addiction.

But achieving that goal has proved difficult, says Edward Bilsky, a pharmacologist who serves as the provost and chief academic officer at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima, Wash.

"We know a lot more about pain and addiction than we used to," says Bilsky, "But it's been hard to get a practical drug."

The Lexington-Fayette government is joining 34 other Kentucky counties in suing close to two dozen wholesale drug distributors and manufacturers. 

Mayor Jim Gray announced the opioid-related federal lawsuit Thursday.


Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a lawsuit against opioid maker Endo Pharmaceuticals for pushing a highly addictive drug on doctors in Kentucky and contributing to the opioid crisis. 

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Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear plans to announce an initiative to combat opioid overdoses and deaths.

As deaths from opioid overdoses rise around the country, the city of Baltimore feels the weight of the epidemic.

"I see the impact every single day," says Leana Wen, the city health commissioner. "We have two people in our city dying from overdose every day."

President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday, freeing up resources to deal with the epidemic.

Last year, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. Many of those overdoses were from heroin, prescription painkillers, fentanyl and other opioids.

It has the power to save lives by targeting opioid overdoses — something that kills more than 140 Americans every day. And now Narcan, the nasal spray that can pull a drug user back from an overdose, is being carried by all of Walgreens' more than 8,000 pharmacies.

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