Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has been fueled by soaring numbers of prescriptions written for pain medication. And often, those prescriptions are written by dentists.

"We're in the pain business," says Paul Moore, a dentist and pharmacologist at University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. "People come to see us when they're in pain. Or after we've treated them, they leave in pain."

More people who are addicted to opioids are coming into the Marion County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. The influx has the sheriff calling on Indiana lawmakers to spend more to combat addiction.   

Lieutenant Colonel James Martin, the Marion County Jail commander, says the facility has seen an influx of people going into withdrawals. “The majority of the problems we are dealing with are your first 20 or so hours in custody,” says Martin.

Emily Foreman / Side Effects Public Media

Pregnant women with opioid addiction often face obstacles in managing their treatment, including finding a doctor and battling with insurance paperwork. At a vulnerable time, they often stumble and relapse because of these problems.

While treatment for the disease is relatively straightforward, the communication between insurers and providers can be riddled with clerical errors and prone to delays.

Jake Harper/Side Effects

On a cold morning last winter, Christopher Hinds says he woke up early, sick from withdrawal. He called a friend and they trekked across a highway, walking for more than two miles through the snow on a street without sidewalks to buy heroin. 

“You don’t think about nothing but getting it when you’re sick like that,” he says. 

Department of Foreign Affairs / https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfataustralianaid/

Indiana’s Medicaid will soon cover methadone treatment for people suffering from opioid addiction. That could mean more people seeking treatment, and savings for people already receiving it.


Stigma Keeps Some Doctors From Treating Drug Addiction

Aug 16, 2017
Edwin Torres / GroundTruth

Internal medicine physician Chinazo Cunningham runs a family health center in New York's South Bronx.

She has an appointment with Dinah, one of her regular patients. This is a routine checkup but a bit different — Dinah is a recovering heroin user. She takes buprenorphine, a prescription medication that treats her addiction and prevents relapse. Cunningham prescribes Dinah this drug and all of her other medications during her quarterly visits to the health center.

Emily Forman

Tia Hosler woke up at 7:35 a.m. on a friend’s couch next to her newborn son’s crib after an overnight babysitting gig.

The 26-year-old had slept through her alarm and was late for the bus, her ride to group therapy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And now she had to scramble. She tied her Kool-Aid-red hair into a tight bun and kissed her 2-month-old, Marsean. 


It's always appealing to think that there could be an easy technical fix for a complicated and serious problem.

For example, wouldn't it be great to have a vaccine to prevent addiction?

"One of the things they're actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect," said Dr. Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services.

32 Churches, No Methadone Clinic: Trying To Heal In A 'Treatment Desert'

Aug 14, 2017
Brian Rinker / Kaiser Health News

Heather Menzel squirmed in her seat, unable to sleep on the Greyhound bus as it rolled through the early morning darkness toward Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley. She’d been trapped in transit for three miserable days, stewing in a horrific sickness only a heroin addict can understand. Again, and again, she stumbled down the aisle to the bathroom to vomit.

Opioid abuse is a crisis, but is it an emergency?

That's the question gripping Washington after President Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recommended that the president declare the epidemic a national emergency.

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