Small-Town American Budgets Devastated By Opioid Crisis As 41 States Subpoena Big Pharma

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Top Tier Gear USA


A surge in Opioid consumption, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine – and the resulting spike in overdose related deaths is devastating families in rural America.  But the opioid epidemic is laying waste to more than just the broken families it counts among its victims, as Reuters points out today, rural municipalities are finding it nearly impossible to fund the surging costs associated with overdoses which come in the form of emergency call volumes, medical examiner and coroner bills, and overcrowded jails and courtrooms.

As an example, Ross County, Ohio, a town of only 77,000, says its budget for child services has doubled in just 5 years and 75% of the children place into protection come from homes where parents have opioid addictions.

Ross County, a largely rural region of 77,000 people an hour south of Columbus, Ohio, is wrestling with an explosion in opioid-related deaths – 44 last year compared to 19 in 2009. The drug addiction epidemic is shattering not just lives but also stressing the county budget.

About 75 percent of the 200 children placed into state care in the county have parents with opioid addictions, up from about 40 percent five years ago, local officials say. Their care is more expensive because they need specialist counseling, longer stays and therapy.

That has caused a near doubling in the county’s child services budget to almost $2.4 million from $1.3 million, said Doug Corcoran, a county commissioner.

For a county with a general fund of just $23 million, that is a big financial burden, Corcoran said. He and his colleagues are now exploring what they might cut to pay for the growing costs of the epidemic, such as youth programs and economic development schemes.

But it’s not just the cost of child services that is wreaking havoc on municipal budgets as everything from autopsy and toxicology costs to court fees and jail expenses are surging throughout rural America.

Autopsy and toxicology costs there have nearly doubled in six years, from about $89,000 in 2010 to $165,000 in 2016, county data shows.

Court costs are soaring, mainly because of the expense of prosecuting opioid-related crimes and providing accused with a public defender, local officials say.

The county is using contingency funds to pay for the added coroner costs, said Mike Baker, the county’s top government official. Last year, the county drew $63,000 from those funds, up from $19,000 in 2014, he said. In 2014, the county saw 10 drug-related deaths. In 2016, the number had grown to 53.

In Mercer County, West Virginia, 300 miles (483 km) to the south of Indiana County, opioid-related jail costs are carving into the small annual budget of $12 million for the community of 62,000 people.

The county’s jail expenses are on course to increase by $100,000 this year, compared to 2015. The county pays $48.50 per inmate per day to the jail, and this year the jail is on course to have over 2,000 more “inmate days” compared to 2015, according to county data.

“At least 90 percent of those extra jail costs are opioid-related,” said Greg Puckett, a county commissioner who sits on a national county opioid task force. “We spend more in one month on our jail bill than we spend per month on economic development, our health department and our emergency services combined.”

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg has just noted, attorneys general from 41 states are broadening their investigation into the opioid industry and have served subpoenas to five pharma companies that make the most powerful prescription painkillers.

They announced Tuesday that they had served subpoenas requesting information from five companies that make powerful prescription painkillers and three distributors. Forty-one attorneys general are involved.

The investigation into marketing and sales practices seeks to find out whether the industry’s own actions worsened the epidemic.

If the industry cooperates, the investigation could lead to a national settlement.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance said in a statement that it’s not responsible for the volume of opioid prescribing but that it does want to work on solving the public health crisis.

Dozens of local and state governments have already filed, announced or publicly considered lawsuits against drugmakers or distributors.

To add some context to the scale of the opioid epidemic, the California Department of Public Health recently dropped some staggering statistics showing that there are a remarkable number of counties in California where annual prescriptions for pain killers actually exceed the population.

Trinity County is the state’s fourth-smallest, and ended last year with an estimated population of 13,628 people.

Its residents also filled prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids 18,439 times, the highest per capita rate in California.

Besides Trinity, other counties with more prescriptions than people include Lake, Shasta, Tuolumne and Del Norte counties. In the Sacramento region, El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties had prescription rates above the statewide average, with Yolo County slightly below the state average.

A county’s prescription total represents all opioids dispensed via prescriptions filled at a pharmacy and tracked by the state. Statewide, 15 percent of Californians were prescribed opioids in 2016, ranging from 7.3 percent of residents in tiny Alpine County to almost 27 percent in Lake County.

As might be expected, the scripts per capita are highest in California’s more rural northern counties.

So who is participating most in this deadly epidemic? Well, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the biggest abusers of opioids are high-school educated, unemployed, white people living in small towns…

“The following characteristics were associated with higher amounts of opioids prescribed: a larger percentage of non-Hispanic whites; higher rates of uninsured and Medicaid enrollment; lower educational attainment; higher rates of unemployment; (small-town) status; more dentists and physicians per capita; a higher prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, arthritis, and disability; and higher suicide rates,” concluded the authors of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in July.

“What you’re seeing in California is what you’re seeing in many parts of the country, including Oregon,”Korthuis said. “There are still a lot of rural counties around the U.S. that are awash in prescription opioids.”

Of course, growth in opioid addiction is hardly just a California phenomenon. According to the CDC’s Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes, addiction-related deaths are far more prevalent in the rural ‘rust-belt’ states of the Midwest.

Meanwhile, the epidemic is growing far more severe every year with overdose deaths up 167% across the country since 1999.

The rate of drug overdose deaths increased from 6.1 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 16.3 in 2015; for unintenttional drug overdose deaths, the rate increased from 4.0 per 100,000 in 1999 to 13.8 in 2015; for drug overdose deaths involving any opioid, the rate increased from 2.9 per 100,000 in 1999 to 10.4 in 2015 (p<0.05); for unintenttional drug overdose deaths involving any opioid, the rate increased from 2.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 9.3 per 100,000 in 2015 (p<0.05). For all four categories of drug overdose deaths, increases in rates were largest from 2013 to 2015, with the rate increasing on average by 9% per year for overall drug overdose deaths (p<0.05), 11% per year for unintenttional drug overdose deaths (p<0.05), 15% per year for drug overdose deaths involving any opioid (p<0.05), and 16% for unintenttional drug overdose deaths involving any opioid (p<0.05).

But don’t worry too much because, as Princeton Economist Alan Krueger told us recently, there is a simple solution to the opioid epidemic in the U.S…apparently it can all be solved with just a little more Obamacare.

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  • roger

    CBD oil, people. Get it by mail order. Non-addictive, no high, just good ole fashioned pain relief and it’s legal everywhere and available without a prescription.

    • lilred

      Where can you get it in the mail? I use THC rso concentrate in a menthol oil mixture topically.

      • roger

        amazon. not a huge fan but they have the stuff…

        • lilred

          No kidding! I bought psilocybin mushroom spores online.

  • dav1bg

    In a recent speech on the state of the Afghanistan quagmire, Congressman Thomas Massie (R) KY, exposed some hard truths that very few people in Washington are courageous enough to address. While most politicians cheered Trump’s insane decision to increase US presence in Afghanistan this week, Massie blew the lid off of it.
    For years, Massie has pointed out that the US has blown billions of dollars on failed projects alone. As of last year, the number of failed projects totaled over 100 billion.
    To put this number in perspective, the entire amount of money the United States allocates to spend on rebuilding America’s crumbling highways every year is less than half of what it’s blown on failed projects alone in Afghanistan.
    Of that wasted $100 billion, $8 billion was spent failing to eradicate the Afghan opium trade. Not only did the this massive amount of money not stop the opium trade and production but it doubled it!
    USA spent $8billion to eradicate poppy in Afghanistan and they doubled annual production of poppy (opium). What’s wrong with this picture?
    — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) August 21, 2017
    Western profiteers are making a figurative killing off of heroin for the literal killing of people in Afghanistan.
    A former British Territorial Army mechanic, Anthony C Heaford released a report three years ago, and a series of photos, which he says proves that British and American troops are harvesting opium in Afghanistan.
    It is also no secret that Afghanistan opium production has increased by 3,500 percent, from 185 tons in 2001 to 6,400 in 2015, since the US-led invasion. All of which is headed to England for redistribution. Bank of England laundered $2.3 trillion last year of heroin drug money, that they admit to.
    Root cause analysis.

    • Afghanistan is NOT a failed project, the CIA in conjunction with The USA Senate Drug Cartel & Human Trafficking are importing millions of tons of opium per year, now that money is laundered through DoD “war budget”, any profit made from the sales are pure NET. Opium is the base of all narcotics, legal & illegal.

    • lilred

      I’d roll that money Donald rumsfueld said went missing a day before 9/11 into the failed middle east situation the u.s. is in

    • Simon says

      Profits and graft are less in successful with productive government spending. All government programs are successful to someone

  • David E

    Well I guess that authoritarian “law and order” “tough on drugs” bullshit isn’t working out so well, huh. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.

  • Jeri Brace

    It’s about time!!
    Someone needs to put a collar on these Legalized Drug Dealers. Big Pharma is the cause of our opiate crisis. if Big Pharma & the Hospitals are so Cannabis unfriendly then maybe opiates should only be available in a hospital setting and let the rest of us not in the hospital use medicinal MJ.

    • No addictive opiates should be available anywhere nor does weed have any medicinal uses.

      • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

        You should probably not comment when you know fuck-all about what you’re commenting on.

      • SP_88

        That propaganda was debunked long ago. There are many, many medicinal purposes for marijuana. Don’t let the government fool you with their lies and propaganda.

        • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

          It is kind of amazing that there are still people stupid enough to believe 1930s propaganda which has been debunked multiple times over the last 80 years.

          It’s almost like ignorance is more important than facts.

          • SP_88

            It’s like Reefer Madness all over again. What a bunch of crap that was. Some people just refuse to accept the facts about things simply because they don’t like it. Others refuse to accept the facts because they have an agenda.
            We’re battling against idiots and tyrants.

          • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

            And the idiots are trying to beat us with experience.

        • Go debunk your brain, there is no snake oil.

          • SP_88

            That’s why so many people have used it with much better results than prescription drugs, including cancer patients I’ve known personally.
            You are not a credible source for information regarding the medicinal use of marijuana. The fact that you don’t believe it has any medicinal properties is proof enough that you don’t have a clue.
            I don’t know if it’s just ignorance, or if you just have some arbitrary dislike of it that has clouded your judgement, but either way, you are very obviously wrong.
            I don’t even know why you care. What difference does it make to you?

          • Drug addicts will say anything to legalize their dependency, find me a “patient” willing to use hemp without THC for the actual medicinal value, not one cures all snake oil. Don’t make me repeat myself.

      • roger

        you are incorrect…………period, end of story………….

        • Having a period there, addicted snowflake ?

          • roger

            nah, but I’m going block your inane ass.

  • You don’t need pain relief, you need to move those joints that hurt you, along with proper nutrition AND hydration.

    • BillyBob Sowbreath

      Ok Bub.. let’s see if your idea works on a person like myself with 2 unsuccessful spinal fusions, severe sciatica issues that require 2 additional surgeries… a severely fractured foot that never properly recovered… and among other issues. My reward for busting my ass for over 30 years of working in the private sector…

      Yea.. just get up and move… easy for you to say!

      My MRI’s and X-ray don’t lie, yet I get tossed in with all the rest of the “opioid addiction”. While I agree there certainly is addiction problems… leave those of us ALONE that have well documented problems and rock-solid medical records that prove the pain relief is needed.

      • Randall Plaisted

        Couple that with the $7K deductibles. Those pills are coming from doctor scrips. Ppl are foregoing surgery right and left. I have never heard this mentioned anywhere.This is a dirty little Obama Care secret, but he press will not cover this aspect. MSM, covering Obama’s ass since 2008, and still going strong!

      • I didn’t say surgery, but if you want to be in pain for life & a drug addict, don’t visit Dr. John Bergman’s YouTube site.

  • darkhorse

    druggers deserve what they get…do not spend one penny on them….

    • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

      If only you weren’t a moron.

      • darkhorse

        there speaketh a drugger…..

        • ReverendDraco✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

          Poor lackwit – such jealousy is unbecoming.

          • darkhorse

            Git back to the Zionist old age home, gramps…..

          • darkhorse

            Git back to the Zionist old age home, gramps…..

  • SP_88

    I’m sure we have a problem with opioid overdoses in America. And sure, we should do something about it. But not if the solution is worse than the problem.
    First, some of the statistics in the article don’t make sense. Many of the things they are attributing to opioid use is just speculation and guessing. Many of the cost increases these small towns are experiencing could be because of other things. The cost of medical care in general is going way up, mostly as a result of Obamacare.
    The number of prescriptions they stated in relation to the population seems to suggest that there are more prescriptions than people. But that would be misleading. People fill prescriptions once a month. So that number should be divided by 12. In Trinity County, there are 13,628 people. They filled 18,439 prescriptions for opiates. That equates to about 1536 people filling prescriptions. Now that is a big percentage of the population to be on opiates, but these are legal prescriptions. I think that before we can declare this to be an epidemic, we need to look closer to see why so many prescriptions were filled. Are doctors properly prescribing these medications? It could be that doctors are too quick to hand out these medications. Or perhaps there is some reason why people end up in pain in this area. There could be some industry that is causing people to become injured.
    It is also possible that there is a pain management clinic located in Trinity. Perhaps even two or more. If that’s the case, then people from surrounding areas are going to come to Trinity for treatment, and when they fill their prescriptions, they are going to do it there. And if that’s the case, then this number is actually pretty low.
    There just isn’t enough information to be able to tell. And there are a lot of assumptions in these numbers.
    If this issue is to be truly solved, we need to figure out exactly what’s happening without making a bunch of guesses and assumptions.
    There are many people who have a legitimate reason for taking these medications. And there is no reason to make their life a living hell just because of some stupid doctors who are too easy going with the prescription pad and some drug addicts who don’t know when to quit.
    The drugs do what they are supposed to do. There are so many drugs that are harmful to the patients and aren’t really that effective. But nobody is going after those drugs. But for some reason, people are on a witch hunt for the few drugs that actually function like they should.
    The problem isn’t the drugs. It’s how they are being used. With a little knowledge and some care, these drugs work just fine. But they need to be handed out sparingly.