John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Opioid Epidemic Category

I Drop Off My Unused Pills

Mack drops off unused Rx 
pills at a recent Newtown
Drug Take Back Event.

A group of experts, led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, today issued a new report with comprehensive recommendations aimed at stemming the opioid epidemic.

"The opioid situation is certainly dire, but we are seeing progress in some areas," says Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, associate director for outreach at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School and one of the report's editors.

"Communities across the U.S. are organizing prevention efforts such as increased naloxone distribution that reverse an overdose, and drug 'take back' programs that reduce the supply of unused medications that are being unsafely stored in patients' homes. Taken together, these and other efforts suggest we can intervene in both the supply and demand of these drugs in communities and turn the crisis around."

Among the recommendations:

Provide Clear and Consistent Guidance on Opioid Disposal and Expand "Take Back" Programs: There are enormous volumes of unused opioids in homes throughout the U.S. that are too often diverted for nonmedical use. Safe disposal options for prescription opioids are needed.

I was expecting to see more people at the recent Newtown Drug Drop Off event. It's difficult to get people to participate in this activity that is scheduled for just a few hours on a weekend every 6 months or so.

In a letter to the Editor of the Bucks County Courier Times, I pointed out that more than 100,000 opioid pills may be sitting in medicine cabinets in Newtown just waiting to be diverted for illegal use (read "My Case for a 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Box").

Posted on 30 Oct 2017, 01:28 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Is There a Role for Medical Cannabis in Combating the Opioid Epidemic?

[Guest post by Cliff Mintz who writes for Cannabis Science Blog. Mintz has an extensive background in biopharmaceutical drug development and Cannabis science. He received a BS degree from Cornell University and a PhD degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.]

While the exact causes of the current opioid academic are uncertain, a variety of factors including job loss, chronic unemployment, financial hardship and over-marketing/over-prescribing of opioids have been suggested (read "Former Insys Sales Reps Bribed Docs To Prescribe Opioids To As Many Patients as Possible"). It is important to note, however that between 1981 and 2011 the number of opioid prescriptions in the US tripled from 76 million to 219 million per year. According to a recent survey, over 97 million people took prescription opioids in 2015 and of these, roughly 12 million used opioids without being directed by a doctor.  Interestingly, because of recent state legislative initiatives that restrict the opioid prescribing habits of physicians, the number prescription opioids deaths appeared to level off in 2011. However, since 2011 the number of heroin overdose deaths and those related to illegal “black market” synthetic opioids like fentanyl has skyrocketed (CDC) in many hard hit states. This is because heroin and fentanyl are now much cheaper and more available than prescription opioids.

The current opioid epidemic is forcing many physicians to reevaluate their use of prescription opioids for pain control and to consider alternative pain management strategies. There is an emerging body of evidence that suggest that medical cannabis (smoked, vaporized or ingested) can effectively manage and control chronic non-cancer pain, reduce opioid consumption and help to lower opioid overdose deaths.

Cannabis Reduces Opioid Consumption

While cannabis is not approved as a treatment for pain in the US, there is a growing body of evidence from states where medical cannabis is legal that cannabis reduces opioid consumption in chronic pain patients. Several studies in the US and around the world showed that opioid use dropped by as much as 50% among chronic pain patients when they were given access to cannabis.

A study that researched the association between the existence of state medical marijuana laws and opioid overdose deaths from 1999 to 2010 found that opioid overdose deaths declined by as much as 25% in states that had medical cannabis laws in effect (Bachhuber MA, Saloner B, Cunningham CO, Barry CL. Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA. Intern Med. 2014; 174:1668-1673). Other research showed that reductions in opioid overdose deaths tend to improve in states where medical cannabis laws have been in effect the longest. For example, in California, where medical cannabis laws have been in effect since 1996, there has been a 33% drop in the number of opioid overdose deaths (op. cit.). Similar reductions were also observed in other legacy medical cannabis states such as Oregon, Colorado and the State of Washington.

Other Efforts

Several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are attempting to develop cannabis –derived drugs and mimetics that treat pain by binding to certain types of cannabis receptors found throughout the body. Removing cannabis’ psychotropic effects and preserving its pain-relieving benefits is the major objective for this new class of drugs. Although these drugs are still in early stages of development, using them rather than addictive opioids to manage chronic pain would be an important step in curbing opioid over use and abuse.

A Path Forward

Physicians play a critical role in prescription drug misuse and abuse prevention. To that point, continuing medical education programs that help raise awareness and educate physicians about the benefits of cannabis for pain management represents and important first step to curb over-prescription of opioids. Further, ongoing political and financial support for recent federal initiatives such as enhancing access to prescription drug monitoring using health information technology, formalized collaborative efforts between insurers, health care providers, and employers to combat opioid misuse and abuse and community-based programs like the national take-back initiative—which provides a safe, secure, environmentally-responsible plan for disposing of prescription opioids and educates the public about the potential for abusing and trafficking prescription medications—will also be critical. Finally, new federal and state legislation that offers counseling and medical solutions to treat opioid abusers rather than punish them will be vital to control America’s epidemic opioid crisis.

[Under Act 16 of 2016 (the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act or the Act), the term “medical marijuana” refers to marijuana obtained for a certified medical use by a Pennsylvania resident with a serious medical condition. More about medical marijuana in Pennsylvania here.]

Posted on 24 Oct 2017, 11:58 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

My Case for a 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Box

My Letter to the Editor of the Bucks County Courier Times regarding 24/7 drug drop-off boxes was published today. I sent this letter to the editor via email on October 4, 2017. In it I state unequivocally that I am "NOT in favor" of suing drug companies to pay for opioid-related expenses. I suggested, however, that drug companies should help fund efforts such as drug drop-off boxes. I also believe opioid-producing drug companies should help with educational programs to prevent over-prescribing of opioids by physicians (something the FDA has advocated), inform consumers about alternative treatments for pain when appropriate, etc.


Posted on 16 Oct 2017, 01:59 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Showing Respect for Victims of Addiction

We must destigmatize opioid use disorder and its treatment. I respect the parents who have told the stories of their children who have died from drug overdose!

Posted on 27 Sep 2017, 15:45 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Turning Grief Into Action

Recently, the Pennsbury school board approved a $149,000 one-year agreement with the Richard J. Caron Foundation to provide drug counseling and other services to district schools. This was after Pennsbury school board president Jacuelyn Redner spoke out in a public meeting about her 28-year-old son Joshua - a 2007 Pennsbury High School garduate - who died of a heroin overdose.

Read the BCCT editorial 
published on 21 Sept 2017.
Rembrance rocks placed
around tree at Steps
to Recovery in Levittown

This is exactly what Tony Luke Jr., of Philly cheesesteak fame, who lost his son to heroin overdose, wants more people to do. He started the #BrownandWhite initiative to help end the stigma and shame associated with addiction.

He encourages people to honor those who have died of a drug overdose to post their stories on Twitter using the #BrownandWhite hash tag.

In observance of Drug Overdose Day,  I attended the “Night to Remember” ceremony hosted by Steps to Recovery on Veterans Highway in Levittown, PA. Tony Luke was a speaker at that event. Read more about that here.

Posted on 21 Sep 2017, 12:52 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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