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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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