News / Health

Addiction Treatment Specialists Say Heroin Deaths Avoidable

Addiction Treatment Specialists Say Heroin Deaths Are Avoidablei
X
February 07, 2014 1:29 AM
Heroin use and fatal overdoses from it - the apparent cause of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death - are at epidemic levels in the U.S. Addiction specialists say that such tragedies are avoidable because effective treatment programs exist. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Carolyn Weaver
As authorities investigate the apparent heroin death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, experts say that narcotic addiction and overdose deaths are epidemic in the United States, particularly in the northeast.

According to federal reports, about 669,000 Americans use heroin - a figure that has doubled since 2007.  Overdoses of drugs, both legal and illegal, kill more than 100 people every day, more than the number who die in automobile accidents.

A major factor in the upsurge, drug-treatment specialists say, is middle class people in their 20s and 30s who become addicted to prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, and then turn to heroin.

“Someone will typically start on an opioid painkiller, and basically it becomes expensive, and they need to take more and more to get that high, and then they need to move over to heroin. And it happens very quickly,” said Allegra Schorr, an owner of the West Midtown Medical Group, an outpatient addiction-treatment center in Manhattan, and president of the Committee of Methadone Program Administrators of New York State.

Physician Stuart Kloda, an addiction medicine specialist in private practice, notes that those who quit heroin and then relapse are especially vulnerable to fatal overdoses.

"If at the end of your initial addiction, you were using, say, five bags of heroin, and then a couple of months go by and you start injecting heroin again, and you decide okay, ‘I'm going to inject five bags,’ your risk of overdose is very high, because your body is not tolerant of that amount of the drug,” he said.

Avoidable deaths

Kloda and Schorr say that deaths like Hoffman's are preventable, because treatments that combine counseling with opioid replacements like methadone or Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) are highly effective.  

But they say not all drug rehabilitation programs are current in their treatment approach.

“They are not offering appropriate medical therapy for addiction, and they’re not offering Suboxone,” Kloda said, calling it “one of the best drugs that has been developed for addiction, in a very, very long time. Basically, in one day, once it's started, and the person finds the right dose, they’re out of withdrawal, everything is great," he said. "You’re fine, you feel good, and I consistently see people do well,” both at work and in their personal relationships.

Kloda says traditional self-help groups, like Narcotics Anonymous, are invaluable in offering social support and interaction with other recovering addicts. "It's like free group therapy, cognitive therapy," he said.  But he said although it’s not official NA policy, “a lot of group members are anti-medications, even anti-depressants. So people have had their peer groups drop them, or they’ve relapsed, because they had a sponsor who told them to go off their medication."

Schorr says that for many addicts, opioid-replacement drugs are as necessary as a diabetic’s insulin. "The risk of relapse is always present," she said, "but one of the things that’s so important to know is that we do have answers.

"We know that medication with counseling is the answer. We have study after study," Schorr said. "It's heartbreaking for people in this field to know that here is this epidemic, and we have treatment available, and that people are searching and don’t know the answer exists, but the answer is here."

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More