Opioids | KCUR

Opioids

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A day after her son Asher was born, state social workers paid a visit to Amber Johnson in the hospital. She had tested positive for meth, marijuana and painkillers during her pregnancy and, fearful she would lose her son, told them about her addiction.

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When Victoria Worden of Kansas City was pregnant with her fourth child, she was addicted to heroin and hated herself for it.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several members of a task force formed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to address the opioid crisis claim his refusal to consider Medicaid expansion undermines their work.

Jackson County has become the latest government body to sue drug companies and distributors for their alleged complicity in the opioid epidemic.

The suit, filed on Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City, names dozens of businesses, including drug giants like Johnson & Johnson and pharmacies like CVS. It says at least 308 people in Jackson County died of opioid overdoses between 2013 and 2017.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

When Cody Goodwin, of Independence, Missouri, was 24, he had already been hooked on opioids, including heroin, for years. His sister decided jail was the only way he could be cut off from drugs, so she reported him to the police.

Over the last six years, enough opioids were shipped to the state of Missouri to give every resident 260 pills.

The finding comes from a report released Thursday by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. It's the latest in a series of investigations by the senator into the role of drugmakers, distributors and other industry players in fueling the opioid epidemic.

file photo / Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas House committee on Thursday recommended the legalization of medicinal supplements containing cannabidiol, CBD, a marijuana extract used by some to control seizures and pain.

It also moved to keep an herbal stimulant, kratom, legal in Kansas.

White residents in Missouri are dying at a higher rate than they did nearly two decades ago, according to a report from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The increased death rate largely is occurring in the state's rural counties, especially in the Ozarks and the Bootheel region and substance abuse appears to be a major factor. For example, deaths by drug overdose have increased by nearly 600 percent in many rural counties. Poor mental health also plays a significant role, as suicides among young and middle-aged adults have increased by 30 percent since 1995. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Renea Molden’s doctors told her they wanted to take her off hydrocodone pills. 

“I was mad,” Molden says. “I’ll be honest. I was mad. I was frustrated.”

The 39-year-old woman from Kansas City struggles with pain caused by fibromyalgia, herniated spinal discs and degenerative disc disease. She says the three opioid pills a day that doctors wanted her to stop taking seemed to be the only way she could make it through work, go shopping or even fix dinner.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

In May, local Drug Enforcement Administration agents, along with Kansas City police, raided a house in Kansas City, Kansas.

What they found surprised them: 16 pounds of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

"We had no idea that it was 100 percent fentanyl," says DEA special agent Troy Derby.

But they were certainly aware of the risks of even a minute amount of the powerful opioid.

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While communities across the country deal with dramatic increases in illegal opioid use, statistics in Johnson County suggest rates of death and addiction closer to home are relatively more stable.

Court filings involving opioid offenses have remained relatively flat in recent years, and illegal use has decreased for hydrocodone and oxycodone, two of the most popular opiates, according to a report from public health and crime experts presented to the Johnson County Commission in June. Heroin use remains steady.

Despite those encouraging numbers, local officials are wary.

frankieleon / Flickr - CC

Just because court filings suggest illegal opioid use is down in Kansas' wealthiest county doesn't mean its residents are unaffected by rising usage nationwide. Today, we'll find out what opiate use looks like in Johnson County. Then, we learn what exactly makes sports fandom such a big deal in Kansas City, whether it's for the Chiefs, the Royals or Sporting KC.

Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order Monday to set up a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, ending Missouri's status as the final state in the nation without such a database. 

The order also bypasses another round of debates in the Missouri legislature, which came close to establishing a broad program during the regular session, but failed. Several cities and counties in the state already have set up their own monitoring program. 

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Following a similar move in Jackson County, Missouri, earlier this year, Kansas City will establish a prescription drug monitoring program. 

Kansas City Council members Thursday passed an ordinance to establish a city-wide prescription drug database, a tool used to track patients who abuse painkillers and to prevent “doctor shopping” by individuals seeking prescriptions from multiple physicians.

www.weisspaarz.com / Creative Commons-Flickr

Frustrated by the Missouri Legislature’s failure to enact a statewide prescription drug plan, Jackson County this week joined St. Louis and St. Louis County in enacting its own plan, hoping it will cut down on painkiller abuse and addiction.

Missouri is the lone state in the nation without a prescription drug database, a tool used to track patients who abuse prescription painkillers and to prevent “doctor shopping” by individuals seeking prescriptions from multiple physicians.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

In 2014, opioid abuse accounted for more than 28,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Missourians accounted for more than 1,000 of those deaths, according to Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, and last week a bill negotiated by Blunt and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee hiked federal funding to combat opioid abuse to $261 million, a 93 percent increase over last year’s amount.