Opioids

Demonstrators protest the Food and Drug Administration's policies related to pharmaceutical opioids at a rally in front of the Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

On this edition of Political Rewind, the opioid crisis is a nationwide plague, killing or holding hostage to drug addiction countless Americans.


Jessica Gurell / GPB

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 200,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States over the last two decades. Georgia has some of the nation's hardest-hit counties. White users have largely been the face of the epidemic, but the problem affects every demographic.


Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty Kemp greet President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to attend the "Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit," Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Atlanta.
Evan Vucci / AP

Speaking at the National Rx Drug and Heroin Abuse Summit in Atlanta, President Donald Trump told attendees that his support for faith-based initiatives was critical for the effort to combat the opioid crisis. 


U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican who represents Georgia’s 1st Congressional District spoke at the 2019 Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
Robert Jimison / GPB

U.S. Congressman Earl "Buddy" Carter represents a large part of Georgia's coast. Some of the counties in his district are among the hardest hit in the state by the opioid crisis. Carter is also the only pharmacist currently serving in Congress. 


GPB/Parrish Walton

Opioid addiction does not discriminate. It affects families and communities at every socioeconomic level and in every region in Georgia. "On Second Thought" looked at how the opioid crisis affects construction workers. A study from health researchers found construction workers and people in related fields are six times more likely to die of opioid overdoses than the general population. 

Tim Stephens is a peer recovery coach with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. He's been in long-term recovery since 2012. Stephens has also worked in the construction industry. He shared his story about the business and his recovery experience. Laurisa Barthen also joined the conversation. Barthen is the outreach and communications manager with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.


GPB

On this edition of Political Rewind, a rash of ethics charges fly in the Democratic contest for governor.  Also, Republican David Shafer has been cleared of sexual harassment charges, but have the accusations taken a toll on his campaign for lieutenant governor?  Plus, Senator Johnny Isakson opens up about the tragic death of a grandson following an opioid overdose. And, why it is not Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia.

Panelists:

AJC Lead Political Writer Jim Galloway

Republican Strategist Heath Garrett

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

It's no secret why drug users come to George Patterson in a mall parking lot just outside Phoenix to get their clean needles, syringes and other supplies on Tuesday afternoons, instead of heading to the pharmacy down the street.

"It's really low-barrier the way we are doing it," Patterson says. "All you have to do is find us."

  • Voters go to the polls to elect Atlanta's next mayor
  • Atlanta's Board of Education amends dress code policy after a petition
  • New study finds that the state hasn't done enough to combat the opioid crisis

About a month ago, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. He's spent a lot of time talking about the severity of the drug crisis. But he's spent less time outlining the specific steps he'll take to fight it. Today, a White House analysis declared that the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was more than half a trillion dollars.

For years the Food and Drug Administration has been trying to get doctors to quit prescribing codeine, an opioid painkiller, to children after getting their tonsils or adenoids out.

But it can be hard to get clinicians to change their prescribing habits, even when children have died and other less risky medications are available.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

ALEX SANZ / AP PHOTO

On this edition of "Political Rewind," how did voter data end up being erased from state computers even as a lawsuit challenging the integrity of Georgia elections was underway? It’s a story that could haunt top candidates in next year’s statewide elections. Also, President Trump speaks out about the opioid crisis. Did he make it clear he’s ready to commit the resources necessary to make an impact? It matters in Georgia, where the crisis looms large. Plus, Obamacare rates are out for 2018, and Georgians will pay more than people in many other states.

Panelists:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Opioid abuse causes a 9/11-scale loss of life every three weeks in America. Last year, more than 50,000 people died from a drug overdose. The largest annual jump ever recorded. The evidence suggests the problem is even worse this year.

On the same day President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, the co-founder of a prominent opioid medication manufacturer has been arrested on fraud and racketeering charges. John Kapoor, former CEO of Insys Therapeutics, has been charged with conspiring to push the company's signature drug for unacceptable uses through a series of bribes and kickbacks.

President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday, freeing up resources to deal with the epidemic.

Last year, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. Many of those overdoses were from heroin, prescription painkillers, fentanyl and other opioids.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, President Trump addresses the opioids crisis in the United States. He's not declaring a national emergency precisely. He is declaring, however, a public health emergency, as we understand it.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It has the power to save lives by targeting opioid overdoses — something that kills more than 140 Americans every day. And now Narcan, the nasal spray that can pull a drug user back from an overdose, is being carried by all of Walgreens' more than 8,000 pharmacies.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

President Trump declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic Thursday, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said, adding, "it's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said.

Julie Eldred has been struggling with addiction to opioids for more than a decade and she says the criminal justice system punishes her for it.

Eldred, a part-time pet caretaker in Acton, Mass., was put on probation last year for theft. She knew staying drug-free would be tough — especially at first, when she was going through opioid withdrawal. But, she says, she didn't have much of a choice.

Experts: Opioid Crisis Is Hitting Georgia Especially Hard

Oct 23, 2017
johnofhammond / Flickr/CC

The nation's deepening opioid epidemic is hitting Georgia harder than most states, experts say.

That's one of the messages that came out of a recent conference at the University of Georgia.

Some of the highest opioid use is in the Rust Belt and the Southeast, authorities said.

Updated Monday, Oct. 23 at 6:08 p.m. ET

When backed into a corner, President Trump digs in and fights back.

It's what he's done as president, it's what he did as a candidate and it's what he did as a businessman.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., has withdrawn his name from consideration as America's drug czar, President Trump said Tuesday. Marino is stepping back days after reports that legislation he sponsored hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration in its fight against the U.S. opioid crisis.

The attorneys general of 41 U.S. states said Tuesday that they're banding together to investigate the makers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that have, over the past decade, led to a spike in opiate addictions and overdose deaths.

Driving down the main commercial artery in Muncie, Ind., it seems the job market is doing well. The local unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent, and there are hiring signs posted outside the McDonald's, a pizza joint and at stop lights.

Around 2007 — the last time the market was so tight — job applicants came streaming through the offices of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency that screens and places about 120 workers a month, mostly at the local manufacturing firms.

Jessica Gurell / GPB

Every day in the United States 91 people die of opioid overdose. That includes prescription opiates and heroin. Over a year, that’s more than ten times the number of people who died on 9/11. On today’s “On Second Thought,” we’re going to hear from some of the people struggling with addiction, those who offer help, and communities caught in the middle.

Jessica Gurell / GPB

Getting opioids can be very easy.  Getting rid of them can be very hard. There’s a lot at stake here.  Failure to do dispose of opioids can impacts lives, families, careers­–even the environment.

“These things shouldn’t be treated any differently than a loaded gun that’s sitting around the house,” said Dr. William Jacobs. 

He was a respected anesthesiologist with a successful practice and an idyllic family life but then he succumbed to temptation.

Jessica Gurell / GPB

Georgia is a major distribution hub for everything from food and cars to raw materials like cotton and turpentine. And, increasingly, illegal drugs, including opioids. The interstates and port that attract big business to the state also attracts drug traffickers. 

Dan Salter is the special agent in charge of the Atlanta field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He says that right now they're particularly concerned about fake Percocet pills that caused a spike of recent overdoses in Georgia and across the country.

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