Tagopioid

Reading of the Week: Does Opioid Agonist Treatment Save Lives? Also, the Problem with Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs (CJP)

From the Editor

Methadone was invented in the 1930s. The first legal injection site opened its doors nearly two decades ago. Yet our challenges with opioids seem to have only worsened with time. Consider, for example, that in a new, two-year study, the authors found that opioid-related deaths rose almost 600% between 2015 and 2017 in Canada.

What can we do? This week, we consider two selections.

In the first, Thomas Santo Jr (of the University of New South Wales) and his co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis for opioid agonist treatment for those with opioid dependence. They write in JAMA Psychiatry: “Our findings suggest a potential public health benefit of OAT, which was associated with a greater than 50% lower risk of all-cause mortality, drug-related deaths, and suicide and was associated with significantly lower rates of mortality for other causes.” We consider the big paper and its implications.

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And in the other selection, Benedikt Fischer (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors weigh the recent interest in decriminalizing illicit drug use. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry commentary, they note their hesitation, writing: “while ‘decriminalization’ proposals for illicit drug use are popular and largely well-intended, their overall merits require cautious analysis and scrutiny.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Three Essays on Mental Illness

From the Editor

As stigma fades, we are as a society talking more and more about mental illness. And we are also writing more on the topic.

This week, the Reading features three essays that ask three provocative questions. Does naloxone access save lives? What’s it like to be depressed and in medical school? How do involuntary commitment laws affect the families of those with mental illness?

These essays are very different in part because they reflect very different perspectives on our collective experience with mental illness: the perspectives of providers, patients, and families.

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Enjoy.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: “Taking On the Scourge of Opioids” – Dr. Sally Satel’s New Essay

From the Editor

Today, the addicted are not inner-city minori­ties, though big cities are increasingly reporting problems. Instead, they are overwhelmingly white and rural, though middle- and upper-class individuals are also affected. The jarring visual of the crisis is not an urban ‘gang banger’ but an overdosed mom slumped in the front seat of her car in a Walmart parking lot, toddler in the back.

So writes Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist, about the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Satel is writing about the United States, but these problems are also seen north of the 49th parallel. Canadians remain the second highest per-capita consumers of opioids in the world; for the record, only our southern neighbours best us. And, like in the U.S., opioid use has soared in recent years – and so has misuse.

Opioids: little pills, big problems

How did we get here? And where do we go?

This week’s selection: a new essay by Dr. Satel. Drawing on the words of Nicholas Eberstadt, she describes “a new plague for a new century.” Dr. Satel writes about the roots of this drug problem and considers options moving forward.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Drugs, Drugs, Drugs – Vermont Tries To Break The Addiction Cycle, and Minister Philpott Weighs In On Opioids

From the Editor

“I don’t think that we can sit back and be complacent for one moment,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a media interview in which he called for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to dealing with opioids.

It’s a comment on our times when the mayor of Canada’s largest city is focused on the use (and abuse) of opioids. And so are others – opioid addiction has sparked conversations across North America, from big city Canada to rural America. In 2014, Peter Shumlin, governor of the second smallest state in the U.S., devoted his annual address to the opioid problem striking “every corner” of Vermont.

Vermont: hills, lakes, opioids

How we deal with opioids is complicated, touching on everything from drug regulation to clinician education. But the legal response is particularly interesting – the intersection of the law, addiction, and public policy. And so, in this Reading, we look at the Green Mountain State. In a Wall Street Journal essay, reporters Jennifer Levitz and Scott Calvert discuss Vermont’s experimentation with mandatory treatment for minor drug-related crimes – and the struggles of a young user.

We also consider federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott’s recent essay on the opioid issue, which ran in The Globe and Mail last week. She calls on us to address the roots of the issue – which “are tangled and deep.”

DG Continue reading