Opioid Addiction

It's been a decade since the financial crisis drove up the unemployment rate in the U.S. and forced people in the prime of their careers to give up looking for work.

Even today, as employers add jobs at a furious pace, the workforce participation rate still hasn't recovered. And now researchers think they know one reason why: the opioid crisis.

More than 115 Americans are dying every day from an opioid overdose. But a study out Monday finds that just three in 10 patients revived by an EMT or in an emergency room received the follow-up medication known to avoid another life-threatening event.

It was Bea Duncan who reached for the phone at 2 a.m. on a January morning nine years ago. Her son Jeff had been caught using drugs in a New Hampshire sober home and was being kicked out.

Bea and her husband Doug Duncan drove north. On the ride back home, to Natick, Massachusetts, the parents delivered an ultimatum: Jeff had to go back to rehab, or leave home.

One out of five Americans say they personally know someone who has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers, according to a new report about the economic well-being of U.S. households.

The Federal Reserve report, based on a national survey, also found that exposure to opioid addiction was twice as likely among whites, regardless of education level, as among African-Americans.

The Project ECHO telemedicine program lets teams of specialists work with primary care physicians to bring their expertise to patients in rural areas.
Intel Free Press / Wikimedia

Patients in rural Vermont seeking treatment for pain often face time-consuming travel to large regional hospitals and long wait times to see specialists. Now UVM's medical school is using a new telemedicine program to connect those specialists with primary care practitioners in rural areas to help patients get better care more quickly.

Walmart announced Monday it is introducing new restrictions on how it will fill opioid medication prescriptions in all of its in-store and Sam's Club pharmacies.

Exterior of Community Health Centers of Burlington building.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

Community Health Centers of Burlington announced it has reached a landmark in the number of patients served by its program that uses medication to treat opiate addiction.

ansonsaw / iStock

In his 2014 State of the State address, Gov. Peter Shumlin highlighted the severity and far-reaching impact of Vermont's opioid crisis. Four years later, the state is still struggling with the deadly effects of that crisis. We're talking to Vermonters who have lived with addiction and are now in recovery, to hear their thoughts on the topic.

As opioid-related deaths have continued to climb, naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses, has become an important part of the public health response.

When people overdosing struggle to breathe, naloxone can restore normal breathing and save their lives. But the drug has to be given quickly.

On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone.

Attorney General TJ Donovan says he backs legislation that would soften criminal penalties for simple drug possession.
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / The Times Argus

As Vermont looks for new ways to combat the problem of opioid addiction, House lawmakers are considering legislation that would soften criminal penalties for possession of heroin and other drugs.

Rhode Island has become the first state to sign on to a new drug recovery initiative that Governor Chris Sununu is promoting on the national scale.

Three silhouettes of pregnant women, each with a different hairstyle.
Ekaterina Bedoeva / iStock

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has released an online "toolkit" to help doctors and nurses better serve mothers with substance abuse disorders and their babies.

President Trump's speech at Manchester Community College today about the national opioid epidemic included plenty of New Hampshire references.

Trump took time to thank Governor Chris Sununu and Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan for attending.

The speech ranged widely on topics including sanctuary cities, DACA and the border wall with Mexico, but the President did not make any specific announcement of new funding measures to fight the opioid epidemic.

Trump did make it clear that he wants to see tougher penalties for those convicted of drug trafficking.

Attorney General TJ Donovan announced a $28 million settlement with tobacco companies Thursday. Gov. Phil Scott and legislative leaders say they'll use $14 million to combat the state's opioid problem. They have yet to decide how to spend the remainder.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A legal settlement with tobacco companies has resulted in a financial windfall for the state of Vermont.

A graph from the Drug Poisoning (Overdose) Fatalities Report released Thursday shows accidental deaths involving heroin and fetanyl in Vermont. The report notes that 2016 and 2017 data are preliminary. Find the report here: http://bit.ly/2CQH9Pm
Vermont Department of Health, Courtesy

The number of accidental overdose deaths in Vermont involving the synthetic drug fentanyl increased significantly last year, according to a new report.

Medication-assisted treatment is one of the most effective ways to combat opioid addiction, but access to MAT in Vermont prisons can be limited.
Instants / iStock

Dealing with addiction in prison is complicated. For some, it helps them get away from the drugs and into treatment. But treatment while incarcerated can be limited, and those leaving prison often face the greatest risk of a relapse.

Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier.
Lillian Kate Alfin Johnson / VPR/file

At first glance, the numbers look optimistic. After three years of increases in family court cases related to addiction such as child abuse and neglect, numbers were down for fiscal year 2017.

The report from Vermont's Opioid Coordination Council highlights some successes in the state's response to the opioid crisis, but stresses the need to increase prevention and do more for Vermonters in recovery.
Moussa81 / iStock

Thousands of Vermonters have been treated for opioid addiction, and prescriptions for addictive painkillers are down. Vermont's Opioid Coordination Council says that these are signs of progress, but more still needs to be done to create a "firewall of resilience" to the deadly opioid crisis in Vermont. 

A meeting of the CommunityStat group at city hall in Burlington. The monthly meeting brings together police, public health, social services and city and state officials to coordinate their response to opioid addicition.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

The city of Burlington is implementing a team to reach out to people who overdose on opioids within 60 hours of the incident.

fstop123 / iStock

Child abuse and neglect cases are overwhelming the Family Division of the Vermont Court system, a situation that Court Administrator Patricia Gabel says, “has stretched existing resources to the breaking point."

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