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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs