NPR Staff

NPR

When covering the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, we tend to focus on the big picture: billions of cuts in Medicaid spending, say, or millions fewer people with health coverage.

In 1964, the U.S. surgeon general released a report on the health impacts of smoking, and it shaped the public and government's attitudes toward tobacco for years to come. On Thursday, another surgeon general's report was issued, this time tackling a much broader issue: addiction and the misuse and abuse of chemical substances. The focus isn't just one drug, but all of them.

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

Sitting on a dresser in the back bedroom of a house in Austin, Ind., is the bottom of a soda can. A woman places a sliver of a pill, a powerful prescription opioid called Opana, on the jagged half-can. She begins to heat the pill with a cigarette lighter, melting its hard white coating and turning it the color of whiskey.

Her name is Joy.

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

In the spring of 2015, something was unfolding in Austin, Ind.

Medical researchers are in a constant search for truth. Each study is supposed to be another step toward that goal. But it's pretty obvious that many studies just don't hold up. Think about the contradictory advice about what you should eat or drink. We've heard that coffee is bad for you, then sometimes it's good for you. Same goes for soy and even eggs, which have been in and out of favor. Scott Hensley, host of NPR's Shots blog, talked with Rachel Martin about the year in health and medical research.

It's tough to talk about football without talking about concussions. Deep into the NFL season now, viewers continue to hear about these injuries on a near-weekly basis, as they regularly sideline stars and journeymen alike, regardless of position.

When James Harrison was 14, he got really sick. One of his lungs had to be removed, and he needed a lot of blood.

"I was in the hospital for three months and I had 100 stitches," he recalls.

After receiving 13 units — almost 2 gallons — of donated blood, Harrison knew right away that he wanted to give back.

"I was always looking forward to donating, right from the operation, because I don't know how many people it took to save my life," he says. "I never met them, didn't know them."

This month, the Navajo Nation did something that no other tribe has successfully done and only Berkeley, Calif., has passed something similar: taxing junk food and soda.

It is an attempt by Navajo leaders to trim obesity rates that are almost three times the national average. But half of the tribe is unemployed and say they can't afford more expensive food.

By law, many U.S. insurance providers that offer mental health care are required to cover it just as they would cancer or diabetes care. But advocates say achieving this mental health parity can be a challenge.

Founded by two men in Akron, Ohio, in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has since spread around the world as a leading community-based method of overcoming alcohol dependence and abuse. Many people swear by the 12-step method, which has become the basis of programs to treat the abuse of drugs, gambling, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors.

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