Opioid Crisis

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Lucille is 64 and has chronic back pain because of a genetic condition. She takes two extended release morphine tablets and three to four hydrocodone pills every day. Lucille, who asked us to use an alias to maintain her privacy, is prescribed a 30-day dose of each.

"My husband and I kayak, we snowshoe, we hike regularly, we walk," she said. "I can cook again. So, I have my life back."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported record drug overdose numbers in 2017, but a handful of states saw a decrease last year including here in the Mountain West.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a record 72,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year. Meanwhile, a newly published study from the University of Colorado shows pet owners may be intentionally hurting their animals to get the drug for themselves.   

A state-by-state analysis of opioid prescriptions for people who visited emergency rooms with a sprained ankle show one in four patients were given opioids for pain.

The study looked at insurance claims for ER visits between 2011 and 2015.

At the low end, prescribing rates were around three percent and at the high end 40. The overall average was 25 percent.

It's hard enough for employers to find workers to fill open jobs these days, but on top of it, many prospective hires are failing drug tests.

The Belden electric wire factory in Richmond, Ind., is taking a novel approach to both problems: It now offers drug treatment, paid for by the company, to job applicants who fail the drug screen. Those who complete treatment are also promised a job.

VIBE 105 / Flickr

[Updated June 12, 2018, 3:25 p.m.] The cities of Lakewood and Wheat Ridge also filed a lawsuit against the nation's largest opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Endo and Mallinckrodt, in U.S. District Court in Denver on June 8.

The original story continues below.

  

Boulder County and 12 other local governments want to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for skyrocketing rates of opioid abuse, overdoses and deaths in their communities. According to the Denver Post , they plan to file a lawsuit to force the companies to pay a penalty and change their practices for marketing the drugs.

Marco Verch / Flickr

The city of Alamosa, along with Chaffee, Conejos, Las Animas, Alamosa and Otero counties, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver this week against national pharmaceutical companies - including Purdue Pharma, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon, Inc.

Charles Williams / Flickr

Of the six opioid bills introduced to the state legislature this session, five passed and are on Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk. A bi-partisan group of state lawmakers drafted the bills last November to address Colorado's growing opioid epidemic. The bills look at the issue from many sides, including increasing access to behavioral health care providers and medication-assisted treatment, limiting pain pill prescriptions limits and changing how insurance and Medicaid handle opioid dependence medications.

Editor's note: Since this story was first posted, we have received word that Destini Johnson is regaining consciousness and is out of intensive care.

Last August, Destini Johnson practically danced out of jail, after landing there for two months on drug charges. She bubbled with excitement about her new freedom and returning home to her parents in Muncie, Ind. She even talked about plans to find a job.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Charge nurse Kory Scheideman stood at a computer in an emergency room at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. He typed in his password, hit enter and Pyxis, the automated machine that dispenses medication, opened. He pulled out a dose of lidocaine.

“We use it for numbing people,” he said. “We also now use it for kidney stones.”

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