The Research Is Clear: Needle Exchanges Reduce Deaths And Don’t Increase Drug Use. So Why Are Many Of Them Closing?
Charleston, W.Va. is at the very heart of the opioid crisis, yet the city just shut down its needle exchange, which has been shown to save money and cut the spread of disease while not increasing drug use. Experts look at why such programs, which seem like no-brainers to many, struggle to gain public acceptance.
The New York Times:
Why A City At The Center Of The Opioid Crisis Gave Up A Tool To Fight It
To its critics here, the needle exchange was an unregulated, mismanaged nightmare — a “mini-mall for junkies and drug dealers” in the words of Danny Jones, the city’s mayor — drawing crime into the city and flooding the streets with syringes. To its supporters, it was a crucial response to an escalating crisis, and the last bulwark standing between the region and a potential outbreak of hepatitis and H.I.V. When Charleston closed the program last month after a little more than two years of operation, it was the latest casualty of a conflict playing out in a growing number of American communities. At least seven other such exchanges have closed in the past two years, even as dozens of others have opened. (Katz, 4/27)
In other news, efforts to curb the opioid crisis have made it difficult for patients to get help, Minnesota finalize prescription guidelines, and a look at the country's other drug problem —
The Wall Street Journal:
Opioid Crackdown Has Patients Struggling To Get Their Meds
The war on opioids is making it tough for Evelyn Lopez to get narcotic pain medication. A doctor recently stopped prescribing an opioid she had taken for years, saying it wasn’t worth possible federal scrutiny. Ms. Lopez, a 53-year-old cancer survivor, also must travel 45 minutes to pick up another opioid prescription because her doctor isn’t allowed to call a pharmacy for a refill. “I have to jump through more and more hurdles,” said Ms. Lopez, of Hazlet, N.J., who has chronic pain from treatment for her non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is in remission. “For people like me who depend on this medication, what they’re doing is a huge injustice.” (Armour, 4/26)
Minnesota Public Radio:
Minn. Finalizes Guidelines For Opioid Prescriptions
After three years of work, the state of Minnesota has finalized guidelines for how doctors should prescribe opioid painkillers that include starting certain patients on the lowest effective dose. (Collins, 4/27)
Valium, Xanax And Ativan: More Popular, Still Risky
Drew was in his early 30s. His medical history included alcohol abuse, but he had been sober for several months when he became my patient. His previous doctor had given him a prescription for Ativan, or lorazepam, which is frequently used to allay tremors and seizures from alcohol withdrawal. My first inclination was to wean him off the medication by lowering the dose and telling him to take it less frequently. But inertia is strong in medical care, and Drew prevailed upon me to continue providing lorazepam at his regular dose for another month while he solidified his situation with a new job. (Schumann, 4/26)