Frequent Visitors to the ER at Increased Risk of Death From Prescription Drug Overdose

People who visit the emergency room at least four times in one year are at much greater risk of dying from a prescription drug overdose, compared with those who visit the ER once a year or not at all, a new study finds.

Patients with four or more ER visits in the past year were 48 times more likely to die from a prescription drug overdose. Those who visited three times in one year were 17 times more likely, compared with those who visited once or not at all.

The study included data from more than 5,400 patients who visited ERs in New York State between 2006 and 2010, according to HealthDay.

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More States Increase Access to Naloxone in Response to Overdose Deaths

In the past two years, 17 states have passed laws increasing access to the overdose antidote naloxone, bringing the total to 24. Most of the laws allow doctors to prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of a person who abuses opioids. The laws also remove legal liability for prescribers and for those who administer naloxone, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed “Good Samaritan” laws, which provide limited legal immunity for people who call for help for a person who is overdosing. These laws were passed in response to concerns that people who are present during an overdose may hesitate to call 911 because they fear legal consequences, according to overdose prevention expert Traci Green, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.

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North Carolina Opioid Overdose Prevention Program Dramatically Cuts Deaths

A North Carolina opioid overdose prevention program has succeeded in dramatically cutting overdose deaths in one county, according to Medscape. The program is now being rolled out statewide.

Addiction experts discussed the program, called Project Lazarus, at the recent International Conference on Opioids.

Project Lazarus was implemented in Wilkes County, a socioeconomically depressed area in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Many residents have chronic pain because of physically demanding jobs in the logging, farming and textile industries. The county has experienced extremely high rates of opioid overdose deaths. In 2007, the county had the third highest drug overdose death rate in the United States.

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Chicago Lawsuit Alleges Drug Companies Contributed to Prescription Drug Epidemic

A lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago against five drug companies alleges they contributed to the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic through deceptive marketing of their opioid painkillers, Reuters reports.

“For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions and Actavis. The suit alleges the companies aggressively marketed opioid painkillers as rarely addictive, while misrepresenting the drugs’ benefits for treating common pains and concealing the risk of addiction, overdose and death.

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Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Suspected in at Least 50 Recent Fatal Overdoses in Three States

Heroin laced with the synthetic opiate fentanyl is suspected in at least 50 recent fatal overdoses in three states, according to law enforcement officials. In Pennsylvania, the drug combination is suspected in at least 17 deaths. Officials in Maryland and Michigan are also investigating deaths linked to the drug mix. In Flint, Michigan, fentanyl-laced heroin is suspected in four recent overdoses.

Fentanyl is often used during surgery. Drug dealers add it to heroin to create a stronger high, ABC News reports.

People who use the drug combination “don’t know that fentanyl is in it and shoot it up and stop breathing, because they were unaware of the added punch in the narcotic,” said Ray Isackila, counselor and team leader of addiction treatment at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. He noted fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, and affects the central nervous system and brain. “Heroin with illicit fentanyl laced into it makes it stronger, cheaper and more desirable on the street,” he said. “People hear about this new heroin or this super strong heroin that someone is selling,” and they want it.

Full story of fatal overdoses at