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American Opioid Addiction Keeps Growing

American addiction. From prescription painkillers to heroin. The numbers are staggering. Why?

In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, photo, Dorothy McIntosh Shuemake, mother of Alison Shuemake, browses a picture collage of her daughter at her home, in Middletown, Ohio. Alison Shuemake, 18, died Aug. 26, after a suspected heroin overdose. (AP)

In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, photo, Dorothy McIntosh Shuemake, mother of Alison Shuemake, browses a picture collage of her daughter at her home, in Middletown, Ohio. Alison Shuemake, 18, died Aug. 26, after a suspected heroin overdose. (AP)

If you hadn’t noticed – and it’s hard to ignore – we are now in the midst of the worst addiction epidemic in American history. And unlike earlier battles with crack and cocaine, say my guests today, this addiction epidemic was made in America. Fueled by American pharmaceutical companies churning out mountains of opioid pills. Enabled by doctors looking to deal with pain. Embraced by Americans for all kinds of reasons. Followed up by cheap heroin when the prescriptions run out.  Hitting young and old – and white. This hour On Point, America’s homegrown addiction epidemic.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization. Executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. (@andrewkolodny)

Dr. Anna Lembke, program director of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Program and chief of the Stanford Dual Diagnosis Clinic. Author of the forthcoming book, “Drug Dealer, MD.”

Leonard Campanello, chief of police for the Gloucester, Mass., police department. (@GloucesterPD)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Why the FDA approved OxyContin for kids as young as 11 — “The FDA’s reasoning has done little to mollify such critics as Andrew Kolodny, a New York psychiatrist and director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. Kolodny said the agency failed to sufficiently weigh the risk of addiction, which is greater in young brains that aren’t fully developed. And he says the new approval will lead to Purdue, the drug’s manufacturer, to market OxyContin more broadly.”

Annual Reviews Of Public Health: The Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis — “Overdose mortality is not the only adverse public health outcome associated with increased OPR use. The rise in opioid consumption has also been associated with a sharp increase in emergency room visits for nonmedical OPR use and in neonatal abstinence syndrome. Moreover, from 1997 to 2011, there was a 900% increase in individuals seeking treatment for addiction to OPRs. The correlation between opioid sales, OPR-related overdose deaths, and treatment seeking for opioid addiction is striking.”

Boston Magazine: Police Chief Leonard Campanello’s New Fight Against the Heroin Crisis — “Fueled by cheap heroin and a steady supply of new users, Massachusetts’ opioid epidemic has consistently overwhelmed the outdated government, nonprofit, and medical infrastructure built to fight addiction. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of people treated for addiction to opioids in the United States increased by a staggering 400 percent.”

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