Addiction and Drug Use

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

"Right then, I kind of realized, 'Wow, are we on the tip of something?' " Avery says. "But you just put it away. ... It's statistically an oddity when you're just one little doctor, you know?"

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.

When you ask people what impacts health you'll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress. But if you dig a little deeper you'll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

The Kids Are Alright: Risky Teen Behaviors On The Decline

Feb 13, 2015
a group of teenagers lying in a big clump
Son of Groucho via Flickr

Maybe it's time to give teenagers some credit: Recent data shows rates of teen pregnancy and abortion are at historic lows, and teens are drinking less and taking fewer hard drugs. However, marijuana use among teens is up. Sound Medicine's Barbara Lewis spoke with Dr. Theresa Rorhr-Kirchgraber, professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine, about the good news. 

Senegal is full of tourist attractions: sandy beaches, historic buildings, religious sites. But when historian Donna Patterson visits, she heads to the drugstore.

New numbers released by the federal government reveal a continuing upward trend in drug overdose deaths, with 43,982 deaths in 2013 from both prescription medications and illegal drugs combined. Deaths involving prescription opioids increased 1 percent from 2012, while heroin-related deaths rose a staggering 39 percent.  However, almost twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses (16,235) as from heroin (8,257).

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin attracted national attention last January when he devoted his entire State of the State address to Vermont's opiate addiction problem.

For the first time, he said, the number of people seeking drug addiction treatment had surpassed those getting help for alcoholism, and many had nowhere to go.

Ramunas Geciauskas/

At Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, mental health patients are given access to their therapists' notes, as part of their innovative Open Notes program. Dr. Michael Kahn, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel wrote about why the program was launched in a recent JAMA article. Here, he reflects on what clinicians are learning from it. 

Opioid Prescriptions Can Go Missing Between Hospital and Nursing Home

Dec 8, 2014

Madison, Wisconsin - Better communication between hospital and nursing home can thwart people determined to steal opioid prescriptions.

FDA Approves Slow-Release Painkiller

Nov 21, 2014

The FDA has approved a new opioid painkiller that releases over a 24-hour period, and is designed to reduce abuse by people chewing or smashing it into a powder for injection. However, the agency admits that abuse and overdose of the drug Hysingla is still possible.

Michael Regan of Bloomberg News spoke to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the new drug.