Yet Another Opioid Story? Well, This One Will Blow You Away

Cleveland OpioidsIn the year and a half since Hospitals & Health Networks’ own Marty Stempniak wrote an eye-opening report about how hospitals and communities are struggling to confront the devastating impact of the nation’s opioid epidemic, the crisis has only intensified, along with awareness among the media and the public. H&HN continues to regularly cover the story as health care providers team up with groups across the spectrum — from police to paramedics to behavioral health professionals — to find answers. Now, the Cincinnati Enquirer has produced what must be the most ambitious feet-on-the-ground report to date, “Seven Days of Heroin: This Is What the Epidemic Looks Like.” The Enquirer sent more than 60 reporters, photographers and videographers into towns across Ohio and Kentucky to, in its own words, “chronicle an ordinary week in this extraordinary time.” Even if you think you’ve heard everything there is to hear about the opioid nightmare, brace yourself. The statistics are predictably stark, but the personal stories of individuals caught in addiction’s deadly grip and those who are trying to help — including you in the health care field — are truly eye-opening. The reporting took place July 10-16. In a week’s time, the greater Cincinnati area experiences 18 deaths from heroin and at least 180 overdoses. Fifteen babies are born with heroin-related medical problems. “This is normal now, a week like any other,” the Enquirer notes. “But a terrible week is no less terrible because it is typical. When heroin and synthetic opioids kill one American every 16 minutes, there is little comfort in routine. There is only the struggle to endure and survive.” I encourage you to check this multimedia report out. It’s full of harrowing anecdotes, heartbreaking conversations and, most importantly, valuable insights. It will deepen your understanding of our nation’s — and your community’s — opioid epidemic, and that in itself will make you, as a health care professional, better able to deal with the crushing reality if it.

Briefly around the media:

More Progress on Alzheimer’s

Last week, I cited research out of Cedars Sinai that a simple eye scan can find a buildup of proteins in the retina that might Alzeimer's Progressidentify Alzheimer’s disease much more easily, more cost-effectively and earlier than the brain scans now commonly in use. In another big step in that direction, researchers from Case Western University in Cleveland have produced a computer algorithm that, according to a report by Julie Washington in The Plain Dealer, “integrates many kinds of body measurements and data, including the results of memory tests, PET scans, glucose metabolism in the brain, protein studies, MRI scans and more. The goal: “to pinpoint Alzheimer’s at its beginning stages,” which eventually will “allow patients to receive treatment earlier and live normal lives for a longer time.”

The War on Superbugs

 CARB-X, a partnership among the Department of Health and Human Services, the National SuperbugsInstitutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom, announced earlier this summer that it is providing a second round of funding — $18 million — to projects aimed at antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Among the seven projects: a potential new treatment for drug-resistant gonorrhea and a new molecule targeting a superbug that causes serious infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Drug-resistant infections now kill 700,000 people worldwide every year, a number that CARB-X warns could skyrocket within a generation.

When to Start Hospice Care

“The biggest misperception about hospice” among patients and their loved one “is that it’s ‘brink-of-death care,’” Judith Graham reports in Kaiser Health News. In fact, hospice can greatly enhance the quality of life for those who still have months to live. Graham cites research showing that hospice patients “report better pain control, more satisfaction with their care” and that more die at home than “in the hospital or intensive care units than other people with similarly short life expectancies.”