opioids

More than half of people say they've suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

That's not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they're making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels.

Ashton Marra, WVPB, cropped

Trump administration officials have been visiting parts of the country affected by the opioid addiction crisis, including the Ohio Valley region. The administration called it a “listening tour,” and they got an earful in events marked by protests and controversies.

In the day room at St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction, which runs a needle exchange program in the Bronx, a group of guys are playing dominoes and listening to salsa music while they wait for lunch. And Van Asher, one of the staffers in charge of "transactions" — that means he gives out needles — is talking up his latest idea for how to keep the users here safe.

He wants to tell them what's really in their stash.

"If you're doing dope," he says to one client, "we'll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there's fentanyl."

Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as "substituting one opioid for another."

Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to "set the record straight."

LRC Public Information

The Secretary of Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet says he’s thrilled with the impact of the state’s needle exchange programs.

A man named Eddie threads through the mid-afternoon crowd in Cambridge, Mass. He's headed for a sandwich shop, the first stop on a tour of public bathrooms.

"I know all the bathrooms that I can and can't get high in," says Eddie, 39, pausing in front of the shop's plate glass windows, through which we can see a bathroom door.

Nearly 1.5 million Americans were treated for addiction to prescription opioids or heroin in 2015, according to federal estimates, and when those people get seriously hurt or need surgery, it's often not clear, even to many doctors, how to safely manage their pain. For some former addicts, what begins as pain relief ends in tragedy.

There's a clear culprit in the rising drug overdose death count in Massachusetts, but it's not heroin. It's the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Rebecca Kiger

Addiction treatment specialists in the Ohio Valley are closely watching Washington’s health care debate. The Affordable Care Act helped expand treatment for substance abuse in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia -- states with some of the nation’s highest addiction rates. As part of an occasional series, the Ohio Valley ReSource explores the potential effects of ending the ACA. Aaron Payne reports on what can happen when addiction treatment is lost.

Chalermchai Chamnanyon, 123rf Stock Photo

McCracken County has seen a spike in fatal drug overdoses. The Paducah Sun reports the county coroner's office says there were nine overdose deaths in 2015. In 2016, overdose fatalities in the county climbed to 15 deaths. 

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