Opioid Addiction

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A recent report from Allegheny County’s medical examiner on the number of overdose fatalities in 2017 contains both good and bad news.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of overdose deaths was the highest on record -- more than 735 people in 2017 -- but the rate of fatalities decreased in each subsequent quarter of last year.

Tony Talbot / AP

The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are suing eight pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, alleging the companies trivialized the risk of opioid addiction while overstating the benefits of the drugs.

Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social / Flickr

Seven out of 10 babies born to mothers with Hepatitis C at Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC are not screened for the virus, which can cause serious liver damage.

The information comes from a new study from the University of Pittsburgh, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, which looked at children who continued to receive pediatric care from UPMC through their second birthday.

Andrew Rush / AP

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said a year ago that its many parishes and church buildings could no longer be justified given current finances and clergy shortages.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Wearable technology like Fitbits and Apple Watches can measure physiological signals and track a user’s location.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

According to the office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), 100,000 children in the commonwealth are raised by their grandparents. This is due in part to drug addiction, which can leave some parents unable to take care of their kids.

Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Fifteen in every 1,000 babies born in Pennsylvania in 2016 and 2017 were suffering from drug withdrawal, according to a new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. 

That's more than 1,900 newborns statewide born premature, underweight or in respiratory distress, all part of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when a pregnant woman addicted to drugs--often opioids--passes her addiction to the fetus, who experiences addiction withdrawal upon birth. 

Toby Talbot / AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says it is ending a pre-authorization requirement for Medicaid recipients to receive coverage for medication they are prescribed to help treat opioid addiction.

Susan Walsh / AP

The Justice Department will support Pennsylvania officials seeking lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday.

Sessions said it’s the first action by the newly formed Prescription Interdiction Litigation task force, which he said will be able to pull a medical professional's license if investigators find they are prescribing above legal limits.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

At about 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, the door at the Solevo Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Squirrel Hill opened, allowing in a line of patients that wrapped around the building.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Emergency medical workers in Westmoreland County will soon begin leaving naloxone and addiction treatment information with overdose survivors who refuse to go to the hospital.

Tim Betler / UPMC

A new combined 27-bed addiction rehabilitation-detox facility will soon open at UPMC McKeesport.

Mel Evans / AP

*UPDATED: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 at 4:35 p.m. 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has declared Pennsylvania's opioid addiction epidemic a public health emergency and ordered a command center set up to treat the crisis like it would a natural disaster.

Toby Talbot / AP

As part of the effort to fight opioid addiction, Pennsylvania state Sen. Jay Costa (D - Forest Hills) has proposed a bill that would allow courts to send people to substance abuse treatment at the request of family members.

Carla K. Johnson / AP

 

A series of community discussions and an interactive website featuring the stories of the opioid crisis will launch in Pennsylvania next year as part of a campaign to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh hospital is opening a unit for that will allow new mothers to stay with their opioid-addicted infants.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital says the unit will initially consist of six rooms.

Toby Talbot / AP

President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. It’s still unclear how much funding, if any, is tied to that declaration, but whatever resources are marshaled will likely fund work done by people most commonly thought of as fighting on the front lines of the epidemic, like social workers, addiction counselors and physicians.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED  Nov. 3, 2017 at 12:32 p.m.

Pittsburgh's only contested city council race this year pits Democrat Anthony Coghill against Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate for the District 4 seat.

Patrick Sison / AP

Beaver County announced Monday it is suing for millions of dollars in damages from opioid manufacturers,  drug distributors and physicians.

The civil suit claims 23 drug companies and doctors led consumers to believe that opioids were not addictive and the county spent taxpayer dollars responding to hundreds of deaths and overdoses.

Leftover Painkillers Driving Opioid Crisis, Penn Researcher Says

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania says one of the big narratives explaining the onset of  the opioid crisis is wrong. 

Peggy Compton, a professor at Penn's School of Nursing, said the public often misunderstands the role opioid prescriptions have played in the crisis. The epidemic wasn't caused by people taking pills prescribed by their doctor to treat pain, she said. That idea, she said during a discussion among pain researchers at Penn, is a "myth."

"Simply by giving prescribed opioids to patients with pain, we are not creating addicts," Compton said Friday.

Sara Neff / Flickr

A successful opioid addiction program for pregnant women at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh is expanding to UPMC Hamot in Erie.

Tony Talbot / AP

One of the root causes of opioid addiction is over-prescription of addictive drugs.

A major reason it occurs is the practice of doctor shopping — when people visit five or more prescribers in hopes of getting drugs. 

Toby Talbot / AP

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced plans to supply nearly 300,000 drug deactivation and disposal pouches to a dozen counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Everyone receiving a schedule II narcotic such as Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free Deterra disposal pouch, beginning August 1, Shapiro said.

“To be honest with you, at first I couldn’t believe it worked," Shapiro said of the drug disposal technology.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania has been awarded a $26.5 million federal grant to combat the heroin crisis. 

The first requirement of the grant is to perform a needs assessment within four months of receiving the funds.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

At the age of 13, Alex Hoffman was already using alcohol and marijuana. By 14, he was on juvenile probation.

“I wouldn’t stop smoking weed, I wouldn’t stop drinking, so I kept failing drug tests and that lead to my first time going involuntarily into juvenile rehab,” Hoffman said.

It was not his last involuntary commitment. He bounced in and out of programs and jail for years before getting clean three years ago, at the age of 21. He remembered being dropped off at a juvenile facility by his parents on his 16th birthday.

Charles Krupa / AP

The Wolf administration this week released new rules around prescribing buprenorphine to Medicaid recipients. The drug is often prescribed to people who are addicted to opioids as a part of medication assisted treatment.

Buprenorphine activates the same opioid receptors in the brain as drugs like heroin and oxycodone, but to a much lesser degree, in order to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. It also serves as an opioid blocker much like the life-saving drug naloxone, so users won’t feel euphoric effects from taking other opioids while on buprenorphine.

A Song Within The Storm: How Motherhood And Addiction Collide

Feb 16, 2017
Maranie Staab / PublicSource

Sarah Womack stands in the center of her daughter’s pink room and explains why she had to take the frame off the bed and leave the mattress on the floor. After the Office of Children, Youth and Families inspected her home, the agency claimed that a bed with a frame would make a room seem too much like a bedroom and a bedroom would make things “too confusing” for Sarah’s daughter, Lola. The mattress on the floor makes Lola’s room a playroom instead.

Lola lives with her great aunt and uncle. That is her home. Not with Sarah. Not yet.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Two major prescription drug distributors have agreed to pay $36 million to settle a West Virginia lawsuit alleging they fueled West Virginia's opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers into the state over several years.

State officials on Monday say Cardinal Health will pay $20 million and AmerisourceBergen will pay $16 million under the terms that have now been filed with Boone County Circuit Court.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing.

Judge William Thompson disclosed the proposed settlements two weeks ago with no details.