Rewarding good work and abstinence from drugs is a key factor in helping people maintain long-term sobriety. That might sound like common sense, but how is it really put into practice? An article in Scientific American reports on a recent study showing how “therapeutic workplaces” can help people get clean using simple rewards for work and sobriety. The study, led by Kenneth Silverman and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that a combination of frequent drug testing and lots of incentives and rewards produced a higher rate of sobriety in participants compared to those who weren’t rewarded in similar fashion.
According to state judicial officials, Kentucky drug courts may be looking at a change in their policy of prohibiting medication-assisted treatment for drug offenders. Current state policy limits the recommendations of drug court judges primarily to abstinence-only programs. The state also allows some offenders to be prescribed medications for opioid dependence for up to 6 months as they wean themselves off the drugs. But pressure to offer access to addiction medications is coming from both federal initiatives as well as some limited pilot programs within Kentucky.
On Friday 13 February, The Courier-Journal reported that the KY House of Representatives debated measures to reform heroin drug laws in the state and apportion more state funding for drug treatment. House legislators passed the bill, HB 213, and lawmakers in the House and the Senate will now be tasked with negotiating a successful heroin bill by the end of the current session. The state lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to finally pass a state heroin bill.
In January 2015 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing that national rates of overdose deaths from opioid drugs and heroin climbed from 2012-2013. The report confirmed what the CDC, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and other health organizations have been saying about heroin and prescription drug abuse for several years: it’s an epidemic that has to be reversed. While it takes a year to assess national trends in drug abuse and overdose, more recent reports in states and localities with the worst drug problems, like Northern Kentucky, suggest that this public health epidemic is still getting worse.
Health officials and addiction professionals continue to search for solutions to the outbreaks of heroin use and overdoses in Kentucky and many other regions across the country. But the heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic has created a secondary crisis—a steep rise in a disorder related to substance use in infants of drug-dependent mothers. Justin Madden reported in the Lexington Herald-Leader on the increasing rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, in babies treated at Lexington’s University of Kentucky Hospital and in hospitals across the state.
In a recent State of the Judiciary speech, Kentucky’s Chief Justice praised the efficacy of Kentucky’s drug courts but emphasized the need the steer more drug offenders toward this rehabilitative option rather than jail time or other sentencing options. Current enrollment in the state’s drug court programs is around 2,000, well below the 2010 high-water mark of 3,000, according to Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. The drug court population has failed to expand as rapidly as Kentucky’s population of heroin users, which is said to be at crisis levels.
Some much-needed resources for treating teens with addiction and substance use disorders will be distributed to 19 treatment centers and organizations across the state of Kentucky. According to recent CDC figures reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kentucky high-school students use heroin at twice the national rate. It’s one picture of an epidemic of drug use and overdose deaths troubling many parts of the state. Addressing teen substance use is an important part of solving Kentucky’s drug crisis, and the state has had a program in development for some time to deliver about $20 million of funding to adolescent treatment organizations.
Kentucky will be getting a much-needed fiscal boost to fight the continuing crisis of prescription drug abuse and overdose. WFPL News reported that on August 5 the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was in Kentucky, in part to award the state with a $1.08 million grant. The Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Boost grant will be used to remedy the drug overdose epidemic that has been devastating many areas of the state, notably Northern and Eastern Kentucky. The three-year grant funding was awarded to five different states currently facing some of the worst crises in prescription drug misuse.
The state’s efforts at reducing overdose deaths may be proving effective in some areas, but heroin overdose rates keep getting worse.
Every year Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy is required to issue a report on the number of drug overdoses that occurred in the state over the past year. The statistics that are compiled are used to track the state’s campaign against the epidemic of heroin and opioid drug use and overdose faced by many of the state’s regions. This year’s report, recently issued, offered some good news and bad. Although the total number of overdose deaths remained the same as the previous year, there’s been an upsurge in heroin overdose deaths.
In July four senators hosted a forum that examined the special plight of women struggling with addiction and substance use problems in the United States. For a number of reasons, the effects of addiction stigma can be particularly hard on women seeking help for a substance use disorder. This special forum brought together addiction experts to discuss issues like the delivery of effective treatment to women with addictions, as well as the unique challenges faced by pregnant women and addicted mothers. Also in attendance was Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who noted some troubling statistics in a summary of the forum, such as the higher frequency of drug use in pregnant teenage women compared to pregnant women aged 26-44, and the much higher rate of increase in overdose deaths in women compared to men over the last decade.