Just One Counseling Session in the ER Can Help Reduce Opioid Misuse: Study

A single 30-minute session with a trained therapist during an emergency room visit can motivate people who misused prescription opioid painkillers to reduce their use, a new study concludes.

In the six months after their ER visit, patients were less likely to misuse opioid drugs, UPI reports. They also reduced risky behavior that could lead to an opioid overdose. In contrast, a group of similar patients who did not receive counseling did not have as much of a drop in opioid misuse and risky behavior.

The therapists conducting the counseling sessions used a technique called motivational interviewing, which helps people understand the risks they face from drug use. They learn about the factors that can increase that risk, such as drinking alcohol or taking other drugs such as benzodiazepines while they are taking painkillers. The technique is designed to help people increase their desire and commitment to change their behavior.

Full story of counseling session in the ER and opioid abuse at drugfree.org

Opioid Abuse Could Be Costing Employers as Much as $8 Billion Annually

Opioid abuse could be costing U.S. employers up to $8 billion annually, according to a report by the benefits firm Castlight Health.

Employees who abuse opioids cost employers almost twice as much in healthcare expenses on average, compared with workers who don’t abuse opioids, the report found. The average healthcare cost for employees who abuse opioids is $19,450, compared with $10,853 for employees who do not abuse opioids.

Castlight recommends employers, especially those with large and diverse workforces, analyze where lower back pain and depression—two conditions closely associated with opioid abuse—are most prevalent in their company. The company notes that employers may want to guide some employees away from unnecessary back surgery, which comes with opioid prescriptions.

Full story of employer’s cost for opioid abuse at drugfree.org

Some Jails and Prisons Provide Vivitrol for Departing Inmates to Reduce Opioid Use

About 100 jails and prisons nationwide are providing departing inmates with Vivitrol, a drug that treats opioid addiction, to reduce rates of addiction and reincarceration, The Boston Globe reports.

Vivitrol blocks receptors in the brain where opioids and alcohol attach, preventing the feelings of pleasure that these substances produce.

It is long-acting, which helps newly released inmates avoid going right back to opioid use during their first days of freedom. Vivitrol, unlike methadone and buprenorphine, does not produce a high, and cannot be diverted to street use, the article notes.

A person must abstain from opioid use for seven to 10 days before starting Vivitrol, which is not a problem for prisoners who had to detox behind bars.

Full story of prisons using Vivitrol to reduce opioid use at drugfree.org

CVS Will Sell Naloxone Without Prescription in 14 States

CVS announced it will add 12 states to its program to sell the opioid overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription, bringing the total to 14. The company already sells naloxone without a prescription in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin,” Tom Davis, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS, said in a statement. “Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives.”

The states included in Wednesday’s announcement are Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. According to The Huffington Post, pharmacy boards in these states can make decisions about offering naloxone without a prescription.

Full story of CVS to sell Naloxone without prescription at drugfree.org

Commentary: Abuse-Deterrent Opioids: Who Needs Them, and at What Cost?

Ending prescription drug abuse is not easy. It’s a complex problem, and solving it is going to take a complex solution made up of many components. One such component capturing the spotlight recently is the development and marketing of so-called “abuse-deterrent formulations” (ADFs) of extended-release/long-acting (ER/LA) opioid pain relievers. Policymakers are touting these medications as being so important that they are willing to consider legislation requiring that ADFs be used for all ER/LA opioid prescriptions. What many of those policymakers apparently haven’t considered, however, is how much this is going to cost, and who is going to bear that cost.

First, let me just say this about the term “abuse-deterrent”: it’s a misnomer. Currently approved ADFs are designed either to make it hard for people to crush, cut or otherwise alter the pills obtained from the pharmacy (e.g., OxyContin®, Hysingla®) or with a sequestered opioid antagonist that is released if the product is altered, rendering the opioid totally ineffective if it is ingested (e.g., Targiniq®, Embeda®). Other ADF mechanisms are envisioned in the draft guidance issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013, but the common theme for all of them is an attempt to discourage people from altering the medication to snort, inject, smoke or otherwise ingest it by an unintended route. Doing this with an ER/LA opioid is dangerous because the medication in it is intended to be released over 12 to 24 hours, but when altered and taken by another route, the entire dose of the drug hits the bloodstream immediately, increasing the risk of overdose exponentially. ADFs deter this kind of abuse; but what they don’t deter is the most common form of abuse: swallowing more of the intact medication than is intended. In a sense, the “ADF” acronym really ought to stand for “alteration-deterrent formulation.”

Full story of opioid abuse deterrent at drugfree.org