opioids

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.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Scott Kindel lives in Louisville, Colorado with his wife and 2-year-old son. He began drinking at 12 before moving on to his mom's prescription pain pills at 14, and then finally, heroin. Kindel's addiction to opioids almost killed him

"I'm driving on I-70 with my right arm sticking out as he shoots me up for the first time as I'm going 60, 70 miles an hour down the road," he said. "And I just immediately pass out."

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.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Police officer Tash Petsas and clinician Alan Marschke patrol the streets of Longmont, waiting for another call from dispatch about a guy named John. They have already responded to two John calls, but he was not arrested because he wasn't doing anything illegal. John was just hanging around downtown acting erratic.

After their last interaction, John left the scene, leaving his possessions near a dumpster in a parking lot.

"These are those tough cases where Alan and I have conversations," said Petsas, a 15-year veteran with the police department. "You know, right now he's littering with that mess he left. But write him a ticket, it's not going to solve the problem. This is where we have to start getting creative, about how are we going to get him engaged and how are we going to get him help."

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.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

You’ve probably heard of AmeriCorps. The national service organization has 300,000 members who work on programs ranging from education programming to disaster relief, like during Hurricane Harvey and the Northern California wildfires. They even build houses and connect veterans to social services.

But in 2017, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – which administers national service programs like AmeriCorps – did something unusual.

The federal agency hosted a separate funding competition for a specific issue: the opioid epidemic.

Pages