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Opioid Summit to Include Social Media and Google Crack Down Efforts

Opioid Summit to Include Social Media and Google Crack Down Efforts

Tomorrow morning, June 27, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. will host a one-day Online Opioid Summit. The guest list to the summit includes:

  • Internet stakeholders
  • Government entities
  • Academic researchers
  • Advocacy groups

The aim of the event is to discuss ways to collaboratively take stronger action in combatting the opioid crisis by reducing the availability of illicit opioids online. And when it comes to the internet, there are no bigger names in America than Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There will be presentations by the Food and Drug Administration and other organizations. A webcast will be available of the Opioid Summit for the general public.

So what will the FDA, Google and the biggest names in social media have to talk about?

Online Opioid Markets

Over the past decade, opioid-related deaths have continued to climb. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA:

  • In 2005 there were around 12,900 opioid-related deaths
  • In 2016 there were well over 42,000

More recent figures show that on average, 115 Americans die every day from opioid abuse. There are a few elements that have contributed to this devastating trend, including the over-prescription of painkillers like Oxycontin and an influx of heroin into the country.

So what does the place you get your sponge-bob square-pants memes have to do with opioid abuse in America?

When we’ve taken a closer look at the opioid crisis, we have discovered that illicit sales of either prescription medications, illegal narcotics or synthetics like fentanyl from overseas have found a home in online marketplaces. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, revenues from illicit drug sales online have grown substantially over the last several years.

  • 2012- online illicit drug sales were between $15 and $17 million
  • 2015- those illicit drug sales online shut up to between $150 and $180 million

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy conducted research by searching online for prescription opioids across the three major search engines. They found that nearly 91% of the first search results led users to an illegal online drug distributor offering prescription opioids.

Needless to say, those numbers show there are still dark corners of the internet dealers exploit for drug trafficking. In fact, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April, one of the big questions he was repeatedly confronted with was how Facebook intended to fight illegal drug sales on their site. This Opioid Summit is about a collaborative effort to do better about restricting online drug sales.

Opioid Summit

While dark websites like the notorious Silk Road have been a major component to digital drug dealing, social media sites, and search engines have found their formats being abuse for these activities as well. Between illegal online pharmacies, drug dealers and other criminals the use of the internet to distribute opioids with minimized risk has steadily increased.

The Opioid Summit will address the state of the opioid crisis and invite Internet stakeholders to present how their companies are working to fight the sale of opioids on their sites and protect their users. A statement by the FDA adds:

“One critical step to address this public health emergency is the adoption of a far more proactive approach by internet stakeholders to crack down on internet traffic in illicit drugs.”

Facebook has already announced new efforts to prevent the sales of opioids through their site. The approach by Zuckerberg and his team is actually unique. Facebook users who try to buy opioids or search for addiction treatment will be redirected toward information about finding free and confidential treatment referrals. Users will also be directed to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.

On the Opioid Summit agenda, there are a few important discussions, including:

  • Panel Discussion

This will include a brief opioid crisis overview from Donald Ashley, J.D., Director, Office of Compliance, FDA. There will also be a presentation on the DEA Internet Investigation. And different experts will present research regarding the ease of purchasing opioids online.

  • Roundtable

This discussion will include a number of presentations, including one from the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. Even the Vice President of MasterCard, Paul Paolucci, will be part of the roundtable.

It is important to note that only the FDA speaker presentations will be webcast to the public.

The takeaway here is that hopefully as the illicit drug market evolves, using search engines and social media to try and carve out a space for trafficking, the biggest names in internet will also be working to actively prevent these illegal industries from flourishing on their sites. Hopefully, the summit will introduce new measures to make it harder for dealers to take advantage of social networking tools. Social media is for bringing people together. Sadly, some still use it to sell the drugs that tear communities and families apart. Next, there should be more discussion about comprehensive addiction treatment.

It is important that those with the ability to reduce drug trafficking take action where they can. An even more crucial aspect of putting an end to the ongoing opioid crisis is safe and effective treatment resources. For over 20 years, Palm Partners Recovery Center has been actively helping people struggling with addiction to transform their lives and heal. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Leftover Painkillers Contribute to the Opioid Epidemic

Leftover Painkillers Contribute to the Opioid Epidemic

Author: Shernide Delva

Whether it is antibiotics or narcotics, many people do not throw away their leftover pills when they are finished using them. However, when those leftovers are addictive painkiller prescription, that simple act of carelessness contributes to the opioid epidemic. Leftover pain medication increases the potential for abuse.

When it comes to prescription painkillers, a few leftover pills can cause a host of problems. Since 1999, more than 165,000 people have died due to opioid-related overdoses according to the CDC. The problem was a result of doctors over prescribing drugs like methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.  These patients not only are prescribed these drugs too liberally, but they are also getting way more medication than they actually need. Those leftovers increase the potential for abuse, according to a recent study.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The study revealed that six out of 10 patients admitted to receiving way more medication than they actually needed.  The research surveyed 1,032 American adults who had used prescription painkillers in the past year. Half the participants were no longer taking the meds, but 60% still had the pills leftovers! When asked why they did not dispose of the pills, 61.3% admitted they were holding on to them for the future. These responses suggest a possibility of later misuse and/or abuse.

“These painkillers are much riskier than has been understood and the volume of prescribing and use has contributed to an opioid epidemic in this country,” said study lead Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, an assistant scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “It’s not clear why so many of our survey respondents reported having leftover medication, but it could be that they were prescribed more medication than they needed.”

The study also found that half of those surveyed did not know how to store away safely their medications at home, out of reach to children, family members, and visitors. Most did not know how to dispose safely of the medications either. Less than 7% knew about “take back” programs across the country, that allow patients to return leftover pills to pharmacies and law enforcement.

The biggest danger is when patients pass their leftovers to friends and family, which increases the risk for abuse. One in five participants surveyed said they had let someone else use their medication. Researchers say their needs to be a new approach to how doctors prescribe prescription painkillers to help curb abuse and addiction. Some solutions are to cut back on over prescribing as well as educate patients on how to properly dispose of their leftovers.

“We’re at a watershed moment,” said senior author Colleen Barry, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Bloomberg School. “Until recently, we have treated these medications like they’re not dangerous. But the public, the medical community, and policymakers are now beginning to understand that these are dangerous medications and need to be treated as such. If we don’t change our approach, we are going to continue to see the epidemic grow.”

One of the changes that has been proposed is lower-dose prescribing. Lower-dose prescribing is a way of minimizing the potential for abuse. In Maine, governor Paul R. Lepage signed a new bill titled “An Act To Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program.”  The bill would mandate all prescribers participate in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) and would set limits on the strength and duration of opioid prescriptions. The bill would require that opioid prescribers undergo addiction training every two years. Short-term opioid use has been considered to have a lower risk of abuse when compared to longer term use.

Many other states in the country are considering bills to limit the amount of prescriptions available. But, will these bills be effective now that the damage has been done? Over all, these laws work as a way of preventing more people from becoming addicted to these drugs. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, understand that you need to seek treatment immediately. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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