drugs

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The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office estimates that there will have been 473 deaths due to drug overdoses in the county in 2020 once they have completed every investigation. That would be a 13% increase from 2019, which had already set a record for most deaths in a year at 418.

Marti Mikkelson

Milwaukee County continues to fight an opioid crisis. Overdose deaths peaked in 2017, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner. But fatalities could be trending down — as the number recorded last year dropped more than 10%, to 302. In the hope that the numbers continue to decline, the Milwaukee Fire Department recently rolled out a unique approach to stemming the opioid crisis.

Parker Schorr

Jess Przybylski had never really dealt with loss. Then the father of her children was killed in a car crash. In 2011, her friends offered her methamphetamine to distract from the grief.

Soon after, Przybylski lost her job. Her two children were taken from her once, then once more when she was caught faking a drug test. A growing rap sheet eclipsed her college degree as she lost cars, relationships — and nearly her life.

"It was a one-time thing, and that was it," Przybylski, who lives in Chippewa Falls in northwest Wisconsin, says of her meth addiction.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday night, just days after striking a settlement with more than 2,000 local governments over its alleged role in creating and sustaining the deadly opioid crisis.

Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

Confronted with a torrent of lawsuits across the U.S., several major drug companies are in discussions with authorities to resolve thousands of opioid-related suits filed against them. A government source close to the negotiations tells NPR that Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International and Allergan are looking to cut deals.

Louis Morano knows what he needs, and he knows where to get it.

Morano, 29, has done seven stints in rehab for opioid addiction in the past 15 years. So, he has come to a mobile medical clinic parked on a corner of Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood, in the geographical heart of the city's overdose crisis. People call the mobile clinic the "bupe bus."

The number of cases of children entering the foster care system due to parental drug use has more than doubled since 2000, according to research published this week in JAMA Pediatrics.

In his 40 years of working with people who struggle with addiction, David Crowe has seen various drugs fade in and out of popularity in Pennsylvania's Crawford County.

Methamphetamine use and distribution is a major challenge for the rural area, says Crowe, the executive director of Crawford County Drug and Alcohol Executive Commission. And opioid-related overdoses have killed at least 83 people in the county since 2015, he says.

White drug users addicted to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids have had near exclusive access to buprenorphine, a drug that curbs the craving for opioids and reduces the chance of a fatal overdose. That's according to a study out Wednesday from the University of Michigan.

In his very first address from the Oval Office, President George H.W. Bush looked into the camera and held up a clear plastic baggie of chalky, white chunks.

“This is crack cocaine, seized a few days ago by drug enforcement agents in a park just across the street from the White House,” he said. “It’s as innocent looking as candy, but it’s turning our cities into battle zones.”

Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth / U.S. Air Force

There are dozens of names for the substances known as synthetic marijuana/cannabinoids, like K2, Spice, or simply, Fake Weed. But in actuality, these drugs bear little resemblance to the marijuana most are familiar with and their impact can be devastating.

"Smoking K2 can lead to unpredictable and severe, or even life-threatening, effects," says Tiffinie Cobb, the substance abuse and injury prevention manager with the Milwaukee Health Department. 

Nic Sheff began using drugs at a young age and was able to conceal his use for much of his adolescence, until his addiction overtook his life. His father, David Sheff, decided to learn everything he could about addiction, as a way of healing himself and his son.

Lindsay Bunker woke up from a nightmare.

The 32-year-old lives with her sixth-month-old daughter on the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin. She's struggled with addiction for over 10 years, mostly to heroin. Then came the nightmare: She dreamt two men were attacking her baby while she could think only about drugs.

"In my mind I was thinking, 'If I can just get one hit, if I can get one line, I can save her,'" she recalls, pausing before continuing, "I woke up and I was panicking. How can a mother think like that?"

Victor Moussa/fotolia

Recommendations from a Milwaukee city-county committee that's trying to reduce the opioid crisis were announced Friday during a meeting at Milwaukee City Hall.

The ideas come as the number of local opioid-related deaths is down a little this year but is still a sizable problem.

Florida is suing pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS over their role in what the state calls "unconscionable efforts to increase the demand and supply of opioids into Florida."

State Attorney General Pam Bondi's office announced Friday that it had added the two companies to a lawsuit filed in May against opioid distributors and manufacturers — including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, Percocet-maker Endo Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical, which is one of the world's largest generic-drug manufacturers.

It may be rare for people seriously affected by substance abuse to get a chance to start over. However, Milwaukee County’s Family Drug Treatment Court is helping families do just that – and has been for several years.

Drug court, veterans court, mental health court… these are just a few examples of the types of specialty, or problem-solving courts, that seek to address specific problems in the justice system on an individual level.

Teran Powell

National Drug Take Back Day has passed, but you can still dispose of your old, unused medication whenever you want in Milwaukee County.

Advocates for ending the opioid crisis in Milwaukee County are ensuring people that they don’t have to solely rely on drug take back events once or twice a year to get rid of their unwanted medications.

Take Back My Meds MKE is the program making that possible.

www.samquinones.com

A report out earlier this month showed a 30% increase in overdoses from opioid use around the country in just the last year.  In Wisconsin, the numbers are even more striking - the state led the nation with a 109% increase in overdoses reported by emergency rooms.

READ: Jump in Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened

There's more bad news about the nation's devastating opioid epidemic.

In just one year, overdoses from opioids jumped by about 30 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

DedMityay / Fotolia

Hannah Hetzer is the Senior International Policy Manager for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. She joins Lake Effect's Mitch Teich to talk about harm reduction drug policy, a philosophy on public health that focuses on fact-based drug education and intervention policies meant to reduce the injuries and illnesses associated with drug-use.

Hetzer was in Milwaukee to speak about the opioid crisis to UWM’s Institute of World Affairs.

In 2016, the National Institute of Health reported that five percent of high school seniors misuse prescription drugs. In 2016 alone, 827 people in Wisconsin died from prescription opioid overdoses – and another 371 died from heroin overdoses, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Jesse Lee/Marquette University

There have been more than 300 drug-related deaths in Milwaukee County this year.

Dozens of people concerned about the opioid crisis gathered for a discussion about solutions at Marquette University.

Experts at the event say there are many factors that contribute to the growing epidemic. They say the problem isn’t going to go away, but there are tools being used to make significant progress.

Screenshot from Facebook

If the opioid epidemic is a suburban problem, someone forgot to tell Gidget DeLaTorre, 51. She’s lost two close friends to overdoses in the past 10 months and her son sits in prison, after his life spun out of control due to an opioid addiction. All of them grew up on Milwaukee’s South Side.

John Moore/Getty Images

Milwaukee County is taking some big steps in its effort to combat opioid addiction. The county has received grants totaling more than $2.5 million to help boost two programs that help people addicted to opiates get back on their feet.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced the new grants at the Juvenile Justice Center in Wauwatosa. He told the group that gathered that opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions. Abele says the number of deaths is staggering, and it dwarfs just about anything else in history.

Sharyn Morrow, Flickr

Milwaukee County is in the midst of an opioid crisis. City officials and medical professionals say the lack of available funds in Milwaukee County to address substance abuse can be a roadblock to creating effective treatment and education. 

On Thursday, President Donald Trump deemed the opioid crisis as a public health emergency and said that he plans to put a lot of time, effort and money into eliminating the crisis.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

President Trump declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic Thursday, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said, adding, "it's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said.

WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers are killing thousands of people around the country. In Milwaukee County alone, more than 270 died from drug overdoses in the first eight months of this year. Recently, 11 people passed away over a four-day period. 

A number of efforts have been launched to fight the problem. They include a task force the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County created about six months ago, which seeks to fight the abuse of heroin, opioid painkillers and cocaine.

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Heroin and opioid addictions -- and overdoses -- continue to plague Wisconsin and many other states. Public health officials and law enforcement agencies have been tackling the problem on a number of fronts.  The latest here in Wisconsin premiered Tuesday night.  It's a documentary produced by WisconsinEye, the state's equivalent to C-Span, and targets children.  

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants longer prison sentences for people who commit federal drug crimes. Late last week, he directed U.S. attorneys to seek the most serious charges possible. Sessions says tough action is needed to address the spike in violence in some cities and the opioid epidemic. Jerome Dillard spent time in both federal and state prison, and is now the Wisconsin director of Expo – Ex-prisoners Organizing. It works to end mass incarceration and help former offenders lead productive lives.

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

In a memo to staff, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" — a move that marks a significant reversal of Obama-era policies on low-level drug crimes.

The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions' predecessors under President Barack Obama.

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