Public comment request on White House report to stem the opioid crisis

Published on: November 9, 2018
more info

NIH logo

The White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is seeking public comment on the Draft Report of the Fast Track Action Committee (FTAC) on Health Science and Technology Response to the Opioid Crisis. Comments are requested by December 5, 2018 and may be submitted to OpioidsRoadmap@OSTP.eop.gov (link sends e-mail).

The NSTC chartered the Opioid FTAC to support the President’s response to the opioid crisis by identifying (1) research and development (R&D) critical to addressing key gaps in knowledge and tools, and (2) opportunities to improve coordination of Federal R&D essential to combating the opioid crisis.

The report, “Health Research and Development to Stem the Opioid Crisis: A National Roadmap,” describes and provides recommendations in seven research areas:

  1. Biology and Chemistry of Pain and Opioid Addiction
  2. Non-Biological Contributors to Opioid Addiction
  3. Pain Management
  4. Prevention of Opioid Addiction
  5. Treatment of Opioid Addiction and Withdrawal
  6. Overdose Prevention and Recovery
  7. Community Consequences of Opioid Addiction

The report is available here: https://www.nih.gov/draft-ftac.

HEALing Communities Study: Developing and Testing an Integrated Approach to Address the Opioid Crisis

Published on: November 6, 2018
more info

Opioids

We are pleased to announce the launch of the NIDA 19-017 – HEALing Communities Study: Developing and Testing an Integrated Approach to Address the Opioid Crisis (Data Coordinating Center) (UM1- Clinical Trials Not Allowed) competition. Click on the link below to view more information.

  • Internal Submission Deadline: Friday, November 9, 2018
  • Funding Organization’s Deadline: Tuesday, December 11, 2018
  • Award Cycle: 2018
  • Discipline/Subject Area: Drug Abuse and Addiction Research Programs
  • URL: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DA-19-017.html
  • Funding Available: NIDA intends to commit up to $6.5M each year in FY 2019–2022 to fund one Data Coordinating Center, subject to availability of funds.
  • Letter of Intent: Sunday, November 11, 2018 (Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.)
  • Description:

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is soliciting cooperative agreement applications with the intention of ultimately funding up to three research sites to participate in the ‘HEALing Communities Study’: Developing and Testing an Integrated Approach to Address the Opioid Crisis. The HEALing Communities Study will test the immediate impact of implementing an integrated set of evidence-based interventions across healthcare, behavioral health, justice, and other community-based settings to prevent and treat opioid misuse and Opioid Use Disorders (OUD) within highly affected communities. Highly affected communities of interest are counties or cities within states that are burdened with higher than average rates of overdose mortality and opioid-related morbidity, and other complications. Combined, all the communities participating in a single research site application must demonstrate having experienced at least 150 opioid related overdose fatalities (15% of these fatalities must be in rural communities) and a rate of 25 opioid related overdose fatalities per 100,000 persons or higher in the past year, based on the most recent complete year of data available. Communities within states ranking within the top third for age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2016, (per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are of special interest. The integrated set of evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions should be designed to achieve the following goals: reduce overdose fatalities (by 40% in a 3-year period), and events; decrease the incidence of OUD; and increase the number of individuals receiving medication to treat OUD, retained in treatment beyond 6 months, and receiving recovery support services, and the distribution of naloxone compared to baseline. The Data Coordinating Center (DCC) will execute an array of scientific and support activities for the HEALing Communities Cooperative within three broad areas: coordination and communication, data, and health economics research.

For more information, please click on above URL to view solicitation.

Materials Required for the Penn State Downselect:

Please upload one PDF file (File name: Last name_NIDA 19-017.pdf) containing the following items in order no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline.

Cover Letter (1 page, pdf):

    • Descriptive title of proposed activity
    • Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
    • Names of other key personnel
    • Participating institution(s)
    • Number and title of this funding opportunity

Project Summary (no more than 1-page)

    • Identify the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.

Formatting Guidelines:

    • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
    • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
    • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

View competition

Great Valley students develop app to combat veteran opioid abuse

Published on: October 31, 2018
more info

Code 4 PA participants

Penn State Great Valley students and alumni recently used their data analysis and coding skills in a state-wide challenge to fight the opioid epidemic, where they received recognition from SAP, a multinational leader in enterprise application software.

After working together at Penn State’s DataFest this spring, the Analytical Assassins team, along with a few new members, participated in Code4PA’s monthlong Codeathon challenge. Held across the state in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, the event focuses on the use of open data sets to generate ideas that will enhance public engagement or increase transparency of state data for greater innovation. This year, teams were tasked to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, saving lives, and ensuring access to treatment.

For the competition, the Analytical Assassins developed Ve-Care, a mobile application to help veterans transition back to their daily lives after service, ultimately preventing substance and opioid abuse among the population. They decided to focus on veterans for personal reasons: Jackie Markle, Penn State Great Valley data analytics alumna and team captain, is married to a veteran.

“Veteran topics are very near and dear to me,” said Markle. “My husband had a hard time transitioning to civilian life. While he is gainfully employed now, our personal experience helped drive the desire to serve others in similar circumstances.”

Opioid abuse is especially prevalent among veterans: a 2011 report shows veterans are twice as likely to die from overdose compared to the general population, and a 2014 study of 2,500 post-deployment soldiers found that 15 percent regularly used opioids.

While building the app, the team examined two years of veterans’ admissions and discharge data from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and determined four profiles that are considered high risk for opiate abuse. This helped them realize the need for a personalized experience. Not only does Ve-Care provide a centralized hub for educational, medical, employment-related resources, but it also delivers push notifications specific to individual needs. Upon downloading the app, veterans complete a survey, which determines their specific needs and their risk for opioid abuse.

“The resources are out there; they are just so hard to find,” said Markle. “Our idea is to provide them with a one stop shop according to their risk category. For example, if one of the risk categories is unemployment, we can guide them to Google’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) tool to apply their skill sets to civilian jobs. We can also push resume writing resources, job search sites, and so on, until they update their profile as employed.”

“Risky” candidates are identified using an association algorithm that determines the most common profile of veterans who are susceptible to abuse.

“Many veterans experience psychological distress which is further complicated by substance abuse and related disorders,” said Karpagalakshmi Rajagopalan, a data analytics student and member of the Analytical Assassins. “While opioid abuse is widespread, the transition to civilian life can make veterans especially susceptible. By delivering the resources based on individual need, we can prevent them from getting into the abuse.”

After hearing about the event from a Penn State Great Valley staff member, Rajagopalan brought the Analytical Assassins together for another competition.

“When I found out the event was focused on addressing one of the biggest and real problems in Pennsylvania, the opioid epidemic, I knew I wanted to participate,” she said. “This is a very interesting problem to solve using data.”

“We never really parted ways,” added Markle. “We had so much fun working together at DataFest. I think participating in this event — especially to tackle a real-world issue — was a no brainer.”

The Code4PA Codathon kicked off in mid-September, where the team of eight met in person to learn about the challenge and brainstorm their solution. Over the next month, the Analytical Assassins worked virtually, collaborating on Slack or Skype to discuss the project, deadlines, and tasks. While each member had his or her own area of expertise, the group relied heavily on their strengths in data mining, algorithms, and Amazon Web Services. On Oct. 20, Markle presented Ve-Care to a panel of judges, and later the team received the SAP’s Veterans Challenge Use Case Award.

The recognition from SAP was exciting, but Markle and Rajagopalan feel especially fulfilled that their project will help veterans while tackling the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic.

“I was happy that the jury panel thought our idea could be extremely useful,” said Rajagopalan.

Markle agreed, hearing the practicality from others made the experience especially rewarding.

“We even heard from veterans competing against us in the challenge that the app would be helpful. Hearing it firsthand made all the late nights worth it!”

While Ve-Care is still in the development phase, the team hopes to partner with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in each county to link the programs together.

New State Program to Help Individuals Battling Opioid Use Disorder Find and Maintain Housing in Pennsylvania

Published on: October 19, 2018
more info

Gov. Tom Wolf

Governor Tom Wolf today announced a new state program that aims to direct $15 million for an opioid housing initiative that will fund a minimum of eight pilot projects in eligible urban and rural communities throughout the commonwealth. The proposed pilot programs must help individuals to become and remain engaged in evidence-based treatment interventions, provide individuals with the necessary support services to maintain housing stability, and provide pre-tenancy and tenancy education services.

“Through these grants, we are supporting programs that help those working toward recovery find and maintain a place to live and we are offering one of the most basic necessities for a healthy life,” Gov. Wolf said. “For those in or hoping to achieve recovery, a home can be an important factor in finding and continuing treatment and other services.”

A Request for Applications (RFA) for support services navigation and housing services for individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) is now available on the commonwealth’s eMarketplace.

Developed by the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and Human Services (DHS), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency and the Department of Community and Economic Development, the RFA’s goal is “to support innovative practices that will increase access to treatment and supports for individuals with OUD and help prevent overdose-related deaths.”

Housing instability, combined with unmet basic needs, makes the road to recovery and independence extremely challenging. According to national data, about one in five people experiencing homelessness has a chronic substance use disorder. This aligns with information gathered from Pennsylvania’s 45 state-sponsored OUD Centers of Excellence, a majority of which identify housing as a major barrier for their clients.

“We know that each individual seeking treatment is just that – an individual,” said DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith. “They each have different situations and circumstances hindering their recovery. To truly combat this crisis, we must build capacity to support individuals by providing necessary, supportive wrap-around services like stable housing and case management.”

“The conditions in which a person lives, including access to safe, stable housing, plays a role in a person’s health. When a person experiences homelessness in addition to a substance use disorder, the lack of a secure home is often a barrier to staying engaged with treatment and recovery, if they are able to access treatment at all,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Supporting programs that assist with housing access and stability will help more people stay engaged in treatment and reach recovery.”

The RFA is the first project launched as part of the $55.9 million SAMHSA grant secured to bolster the state’s response to the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Additional initiatives included in the grant are focused on expanding services to pregnant women and veterans affected by OUD, developing the treatment and recovery workforce, and strengthening criminal justice and law enforcement initiatives with a focus on reentrant supports.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has distinguished four major dimensions that support a life in recovery: health, home, purpose, and community. This project aims to support two components of the dimensions – home and purpose. By giving an individual a stable, safe place to focus on their recovery, paired with the independence and self-worth that housing provides, an individual’s overall health and wellbeing is greatly improved.

The counties that are eligible locations for pilot programs under the RFA were identified via a formula that equally considered the rate of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD) and rate of overdose-related deaths in a county.

For more information on the RFA, visit the PA eMarketplace.

Find more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid crisis here.

SSRI Spotlight: Michael Donovan

Published on: October 18, 2018
more info

Michael Donovan

As the Director of Policy & Outreach at Penn State’s Administrative Data Accelerator, Michael Donovan leads policy operations and facilitates collaborative projects between government partners and researchers to support the utilization of scholarly research in evidence-based policymaking.

At the Data Accelerator, Donovan contributes to the foundational goal of promoting the use of social science research in government policymaking, particularly through the use of administrative data from various sources and levels of government.  Donovan works to improve the translation and dissemination of social science research to outside audiences, including various policy communities (state, federal and local), other academics and the general public.

In particular, Donovan supports initiatives like the PA Integrated Data System (IDS), seeking to utilize data from the PA Commonwealth to gain insights through data linkages and analysis.  Another notable example includes his efforts on a collaborative, cross-domain project prepared for the PA Office of Attorney General regarding the estimation of societal costs to states as a result of the opioid epidemic.

Donovan collaborates with SSRI and the Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse (CCSA) to support interdisciplinary and translational research collaborations aiming to address the opioid crisis and the larger problems of substance abuse. This work is done in close consultation with policymakers to be both responsive to their needs and to maximize translation from academic research into real-world policy solutions.

Donovan utilizes his background in policy, government, and academia in this work. Prior to joining Penn State, Donovan served in the federal government for nearly a decade at the White House during both Obama Administrations.  During this time, he served in a commissioned officer role as Special Assistant to the President in the Office of Scheduling and Advance, where he coordinated the planning and execution of the administration’s strategic agenda.  He began his political career on the campaign trail in early 2007.

To prepare him for his work in both the political and academic realms, Donovan earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science here at Penn State. During his tenure at the White House, he continued his education at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service with a master’s degree in National Security Policy Studies.

Donovan returned to his alma mater in order to both grow intellectually and professionally, as well as to contribute to work seeking to impact and improve lives.

Medication for Opioid Use Disorder After Nonfatal Opioid Overdose and Association With Mortality: A Cohort Study

Published on: October 18, 2018
more info

Annals of Internal Medicine Logo

The United States is in the midst of a crisis of opioid-related harms (1). Some efforts to address this crisis focus on expanding access to effective treatment of opioid use disorders (OUDs) (2). Prior nonfatal opioid overdose is a known risk factor for subsequent nonfatal and fatal overdoses (3–7), and engaging persons in treatment who survive an overdose may be effective in limiting subsequent fatalities. However, data on the association between treatment of OUD and mortality after a nonfatal overdose are limited to a single retrospective cohort study that analyzed enrollment in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) at a single time point and found no association (3).
The 3 medications for OUD (MOUD) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Randomized controlled trials of these medications have shown consistent benefits across many outcomes, including increased treatment retention and suppression of illicit opioid use (8–10). A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 19 observational cohort studies identified substantial reductions in all-cause and overdose mortality for methadone and buprenorphine (11). However, the mortality benefit in this analysis was limited to time actively retained in treatment, and the 4-week period after discontinuation was associated with an especially high risk for death. The few studies that examined mortality among patients receiving naltrexone show an unclear effect (12–15).
Massachusetts has been particularly affected by the opioid crisis: Opioid overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2016 (16). Through Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2015, the state legislature permitted individual-level linkage of data from 16 Massachusetts government agencies to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances that influence fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses (17). For this analysis, we identified a cohort of persons in the Chapter 55 data set who survived an opioid overdose and described any episodes of treatment with MOUD before and after that overdose. Specifically, we sought to determine whether treatment with MOUD, including receipt of MMT, buprenorphine, or naltrexone, was associated with reduced risk for all-cause and opioid-related mortality.

To read the full paper, click here.

Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse announces fellows program

Published on: October 4, 2018
more info

Crushed pill

Penn State’s Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse (CCSA) and Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) are announcing a call for proposals for the Community Fellows Program to support faculty members seeking to develop university-community collaborations that address substance abuse and its spillover effects to families and communities.

The program provides release time for faculty members to develop community collaborations and build sustainable, evidence-based or evidence-informed programs, policies and practices that can effectively address substance misuse/abuse issues within a targeted community.

Another goal of this initiative is to build the faculty member’s applied/translational research expertise by allowing successful candidates to participate in webinars and workshops aimed at developing community engagement, program development, implementation and evaluation, partnering with government officials to promote evidence-based policy, and grant-writing.

CCSA is housed within SSRI and is led by Interim Director Stephanie Lanza, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.

The mission of CCSA is to leverage the University’s research, education and outreach capacities toward a world free from addiction as a step toward enabling individuals, families, and communities can reach their full potential. To advance this mission, Penn State has provided funds for a range of new activities, including supporting the development of interdisciplinary and translational research, education and outreach to combat substance about and related public health problems.

The request for proposals for the Community Fellows Program and instructions on how to apply can be found on CCSA’s and SSRI’s funding webpages.

Penn State launches new consortium to combat the opioid crisis

Published on: October 3, 2018
more info

Stephanie Lanza

Pennsylvania is one of the states most impacted by the growing opioid epidemic, with one of the highest overdose death rates in the country — but a new initiative bringing together experts from across Penn State aims to combat this crisis through data-driven, evidence-based innovation.

The Penn State Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse (CCSA) will draw on the expertise of researchers, educators and practitioners from across Penn State. The group plans to develop and implement effective programs, policies and practices aimed at preventing and treating addiction and its spillover effects on children, families and communities.

The CCSA will be housed in Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, one of seven cross-University research institutes within the Office of the Vice President for Research. One of the consortium’s signature efforts will be the strategic hiring of 12 new tenure-track faculty members over the next four years, who will bring additional expertise in this critical field to the University and lead the charge to research and develop data-driven solutions to this public-health crisis.

“Across the University, individuals have been working in their labs, communities and elsewhere to identify this epidemic’s causes, pursue solutions and address systemic substance-abuse issues,” said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. “As Pennsylvania’s only land-grant institution, Penn State has a vital responsibility to lead the way in fighting this battle. By forging connections across our colleges and campuses and working with community leaders, we can tackle this epidemic head-on and work toward a world free from the disease of opioid addiction.”

The CCSA will provide seed-grant funding for new interdisciplinary teams aimed at combating opioid and other substance abuse and sponsor an annual conference to bring together substance abuse prevention experts from across the nation.

“The faculty within the Penn State Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse will join with our current faculty to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary and translational research to illuminate risk factors for substance use, abuse and addiction; to educate their students and the public; and apply their knowledge to prevent and treat addiction,” said Penn State Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey.

The CCSA will be led by interim director Stephanie Lanza, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State.

A Penn State faculty member since 2004, Lanza has devoted her career to advancing research on the prevention of substance abuse through innovative quantitative methods. She has served as the principal investigator on research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute, and is an interdisciplinary researcher with an extensive network of collaborators both within and beyond the Penn State community. In her role as interim director, Lanza will be supported by the CCSA advisory board, comprised of representatives from Penn State centers and institutes whose missions encompass the systemic problems of substance abuse.

“Pennsylvania and the nation need more research into this troubling epidemic,” Lanza said. “I believe that the Penn State community can create lasting impacts through educating one another, our students and the public, and by undertaking research that advances evidence-based programs, policies and practices to better understand, prevent and treat opioid and other substance misuse and addiction.”

A national search for a permanent consortium director will be launched this fall.

University Police begins equipping officers with kit to treat opioid overdoses

Published on: October 3, 2018
more info

Penn State University Police Officer C. Luke Shivery

On the evening of Sept. 16, an emergency dispatcher requested assistance at a local fast food restaurant in Spring Township, Berks County, for the report of a cardiac arrest related to a suspected opioid overdose.

University Police Officer C. Luke Shivery at Penn State Berks happened to be on patrol just a short distance away and knew that police officers with the Township of Spring Police Department were on the scene of a crash elsewhere, so he told the dispatcher he would respond. Law enforcement agencies routinely assist each other with calls for service.

Upon arrival, an off-duty emergency medical technician (EMT) was removing the patient from a vehicle. Shivery retrieved an automated external defibrillator (AED), medical bag and naloxone kit from his patrol car. As Shivery prepared the naloxone for administration, the EMT administered CPR using a bag valve mask from Shivery’s medical bag. Shivery then administered a dose of naloxone, which is used for emergency treatment in suspected opioid overdose cases. As Shivery updated the dispatcher, the EMT administered a second dose of naloxone.

Spring Township police then arrived along with Township of Spring Fire Department and City of Reading Fire Department Emergency Medical Services, taking over medical assistance. The patient was placed into an ambulance where he was conscious and speaking.

“I’m definitely happy with the outcome. It’s a relief to know that things worked out well,” Shivery said, reflecting on the incident.

Shivery was the first officer with University Police to administer naloxone.

In 2017, after police stations at 22 Penn State campuses merged as one department under University Police and Public Safety, Penn State standardized first aid training through which police officers became first aid certified by the American Red Cross. Penn State also standardized first aid equipment for officers, which includes medical bags and AEDs.

Additionally, officers received training to administer naloxone, which is used for emergency treatment in suspected opioid overdose cases. The training included online and in-person training by certified first aid instructors.

University Police then began the process of equipping its police officers with naloxone. Currently, seven campus police stations are equipped with naloxone, including Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, DuBois, Behrend, Great Valley and University Park. Administrators continue to work with local and county agencies to equip officers with naloxone at the remaining campuses.

“We understand that we are a microcosm of our communities and the abuse of opioid products can spill over, at times, into our police officers’ jurisdiction, therefore we believe it is important to equip our officers with life-saving tools should they face a life-threatening situation,” said Charlie Noffsinger, assistant vice president of University Police and Public Safety at Penn State.

Funding opportunity: International Research Collaboration on Drug Abuse and Addiction Research

Published on: October 2, 2018
more info

NIH logo

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages collaborative research applications on drug abuse and addiction that:

1. Take advantage of unusual opportunities that exist outside the United States to access talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions in other countries that will speed scientific discovery

2. Describe how the research will significantly advance U.S. health sciences

3. Demonstrate specific relevance to the NIDA mission and objectives. To determine whether your research plan is relevant to the NIDA mission and objectives, review the NIDA Strategic Plan (https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/2016-2020-nida-strategic-plan). Where feasible, applications should address NIDA’s international scientific priority areas (https://www.drugabuse.gov/international/research-priorities)

4. Include an investigator from a U.S. institution and a non-U.S. citizen partner living and working in another country.

Go to https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-18-773.html to view full funding announcement.

WPSU to address opioid addiction, recovery with special programming

Published on: September 19, 2018
more info

WPSU battling Opioids

Jaime Durst, from Centre County, said she was 28 years old when she began abusing drugs and alcohol.

“I don’t know how that started; it was just some of the people I was hanging with,” said Durst, who realized she needed to seek treatment for her opioid addiction. “All of a sudden it became really bad. I was desperate. I was like, ‘I need help,’ and it’s hard to ask for help.”

Durst’s story is one of several shared about opioids and recovery through “Battling Opioids,” a collaborative project between Pennsylvania’s public media stations, that aims to bring awareness and provide resources for individuals struggling with addiction. The stations jointly produced “Battling Opioids: A Project of Pennsylvania Public Media,” which will air at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, on WPSU-TV.

According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were an estimated 5,655 drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in the 12-month period leading up to December 2017 — more than 15 per day — most of them from opioids. 

Stories will air on WPSU-TV beginning Sept. 20 and are available online through the “Battling Opioids” website.

  • “HealthSmart: Drugs and Young People”
    • Thursday, Sept. 20, at 10 p.m.
    • Young recovering addicts share their stories
  • “HealthSmart: On the Front Line of the Opioid Crisis”
    • Thursday, Sept. 20, at 10:30 p.m.
    • First responders are on the front line of the opioid epidemic
  • “Understanding the Opioid Epidemic”
    • Sunday, Sept. 23, at 11 p.m.
    • Stories of people impacted by the opioid epidemic and information from experts
  • “Broken: Women-Families-Opioids”
    • Monday, Sept. 24, at 9:30 p.m.
    • Explore how opioid addiction among women is breaking the family bond and changing the fabric of society
  • “Battling Opioids: A Project of Pennsylvania Public Media”
    • Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m.
    • A Pennsylvania’s public television collaborative sharing stories of recovery and hope
  • “HealthSmart: The Opioid Epidemic”
    • Sunday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m.
    • Experts and people in recovery talk about what’s happening now and how they plan to get a handle on the drug crisis
  • “Heroin: A Commonwealth Crisis”
    • Sunday, Sept. 30, at 10 p.m.
    • A panel of experts explain what led to the heroin crisis in Pennsylvania and provide information on prevention and treatment

WPSU-FM also will produce opioid-related stories, including a special “Take Note” at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, featuring Jason Snyder, a regional director of outpatient services for Pinnacle Treatment Centers. Snyder, who is in recovery, has lost two brothers to opioid overdoses.

Durst, also in recovery, is receiving medically assisted treatment through Addiction Solutions in Centre County.

“Since I’ve been on it, I’ve bought a house, I have my car, I’ve worked at my job for three-and-a-half years,” she said. “I’m a different person.”

“Battling Opioids” is a collaborative project between Pennsylvania’s seven public media stations: WPSU, WHYY (Philadelphia), WITF (Harrisburg), WLVT/PSB39 (Greater Lehigh Valley), WQED (Pittsburgh), WQLN (northwestern Pennsylvania) and WVIA (northeastern Pennsylvania).

Visit the WPSU website for more information on the project.

Seed grants to support opioid research announced

Published on: September 13, 2018
more info

Opiates

Penn State’s  Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), in collaboration with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), has awarded over $200,000 in funding to support 10 new interdisciplinary teams of Penn State researchers whose work is aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.

“These teams are developing novel translational research programs to advance solutions to the opioid crisis, from discovery-oriented research to dissemination and implementation science,” said Susan McHale, SSRI director and associate director of the CTSI.

The funded projects and research teams are:

“Alexa, I’m in pain!” A Real-Time Mindfulness Intervention to Control Pain: Delivery Through a Conversational Agent – Saeed Abdullah, College of Information Sciences and Technology; Stephanie Lanza, College of Health and Human Development; Sebrina Doyle, College of Health and Human Development; Robert Roeser, College of Health and Human Development; and David Almeida , College of Health and Human Development.

Predicting spatial-temporal patterns of opioid use with criminal and overdose data in Pennsylvania – Qiushi Chen, College of Engineering; Conrad S. Tucker, College of Engineering;

Glenn Sterner, Penn State Abington; and Joel Segel, College of Health and Human Development.

Using Integrated Databases to Examine Patient Outcomes in Children with a History of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – Tammy Corr, College of Medicine; Max Crowley, College of Health and Human Development; Douglas L. Leslie, College of Medicine; Jeffrey R. Kaiser, College of Medicine; Paul L. Morgan, College of Education; and Guodong Liu, College of Medicine.

Opioid Prescription Practices and Risk Factors for Persistent Use After Childbirth – Danielle Downs, College of Health and Human Development; Lisa Bailey-Davis, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine; Tammy Corr, College of Medicine; Timothy Deimling, College of Medicine; Richard Legro, College of Medicine; Dhanya Mackeen, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine; Jaimey Pauli, College of Medicine; and Mark Stephens, College of Medicine.

Perinatal Opioid Use and Maternal Nutrition and Health Status – Emily Hohman, College of Health and Human Development; Sarah Kawasaki, College of Medicine; Tammy Corr, College of Medicine; Jennifer Savage Williams, College of Health and Human Development; and Danielle Symons Downs, College of Health and Human Development.

The influence of adolescent social stress on morphine behaviors – Helen Kamens, College of Health and Human Development; Sonia Cavigelli, College of Health and Human Development; and Patricia Sue Grigson, College of Medicine.

An Innovative Approach to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic: Utilizing Twitter Data and Integrating Big Data Analytics and Spatial and Social Network Analyses – Zhen Lei, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Guangqing Chi; College of Agricultural Sciences; Cynthia Chuang, College of Medicine; Glenn Sterner, Penn State Abington; Ashton Verdery, College of the Liberal Arts; and Junjun Yin, Social Science Research Institute.

Neural mediators and moderators of mindful yoga practice in opiate-dependent individuals –  Emma Rose, College of Health and Human Development; Diana H. Fishbein, College of Health and Human Development; Robert W. Roeser, College of Health and Human Development; Scott Bunce, College of Medicine; and Sarah Bowen, Pacific University – Oregon.

Linking accidental overdoses to medical professionals and pharmacies: A population-based social network analysis – Glenn Sterner, Penn State Abington; Oren M. Gur, Penn State Abington; and Sabahattin Gokhan Ozden, Penn State Abington.

PROSPER PLUS: Combining Effective Prevention Education with Supply Side Interventions to Reduce Opioid Misuse – Janet Welsh, College of Health and Human Development; Daniel Perkins, College of Agricultural Sciences; Derek Kreager, College of the Liberal Arts; and Glenn Sterner, Penn State Abington.

For more information on seed grant funding and other opportunities available through SSRI, visit their Funding Mechanisms website.

Opioids Misuse: Increasing Access to Transportation In Rural Communities

Published on: September 12, 2018
more info

USDA logo

You are cordially invited to attend a workshop hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Rural Transit Assistance Program, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). 

Where: West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, 400 Lee Street N. Lewisburg, WV 24901

When: September 20, 2018

Time: 9:30 am—1:00 pm EST.

Livestream: Please visit this link on the date and time indicated to tune in:

https://livestream.com/accounts/10067614/

Workshop Flyer: PDF (2.17MB)

Planning to attend in person?

Please R.S.V.P. by sending an email to Betty-Ann Bryce: betty-ann.bryce@wdc.usda.gov. Use the subject line “Rural Transportation Workshop,” and provide your name, title organization, and contact information.

Certified Recovery Specialist program available to recovering addicts

Published on: September 12, 2018
more info

Addiction recovery

Do you have a history of addiction recovery and want to help others? Penn State Shenango will host “Certified Recovery Specialist Training,” a Penn State Beaver Continuing Education course, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, beginning Oct. 6 and ending Dec. 15, in 108 Sharon Hall in downtown Sharon. An information session on the program will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, also in 108 Sharon Hall.

Pennsylvania has the fourth highest overdose death rate in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf officially declared it a public health disaster, clearing the way for easier access to care and resources.

And of all the resources available to recovering addicts, a simple peer-to-peer program may be one of the most effective. Research has shown that peer recovery support services not only help addicts remain engaged in the recovery process, but they also reduce the likelihood of relapse.

“Although there is a long history of peers helping peers in recovery, the Pennsylvania Certification Board Certified Recovery Specialist credential is a relatively new version of this practice,” said Roxanne Atterholt, program coordinator of the human development and family studies program. “This credential is for trained drug and alcohol peers in recovery to help others move into and through the recovery process.”

Certified Recovery Specialist Training is a 54-hour program that meets education requirements specified by the Pennsylvania Certification Board. To apply for CRS certification, individuals must meet additional board requirements, including: a history of addiction with recovery, a high school diploma or GED, successful completion of a CRS exam, and the signing of an ethical code of conduct.

The cost is $995 and includes all necessary materials. Online registration is now open at https://beaver.psu.edu/recovery-specialist.

The Pennsylvania Certification Board requires candidates to complete the CRS exam application. The cost of the exam is $125, payable directly to the board with the application and requisite documents.

Financial assistance may be available for qualified individuals.

For more information about the CRS program or any program offered through Penn State Beaver Continuing Education, contact Jill Valentine at jak249@psu.edu or 724-773-3765.

United Nations World Drug Report Released

Published on: September 12, 2018
more info

United Nations World Drug Repor

Prevention strategies based on scientific evidence working with families, schools, and communities can ensure that children and youth, especially the most marginalized and poor, grow and stay healthy and safe into adulthood and old age. For every dollar spent on prevention, at least ten can be saved in future health, social and crime costs.

These global International Standards summarize the currently available scientific evidence, describing interventions and policies that have been found to result in positive prevention outcomes and their characteristics. Concurrently, the global International Standards identify the major components and features of an effective national drug prevention system. It is our hope that the International Standards will assist policy makers worldwide to develop programmes, policies and systems that are a truly effective investment in the future of children, youth, families and communities. This work builds on and recognizes the work of many other organizations (e.g. EMCDDA, CCSA, CICAD, Mentor, NIDA, WHO) which have previously developed standards and guidelines on various aspects of drug prevention.

The Standards have been recognized by Member States as a useful tool to promote evidence-based prevention in the following documents:

  • The Joint Ministerial Statement on the mid-term review of the implementation by Member States of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action;
  • Resolution 57/3 – Promoting prevention of drug abuse based on scientific evidence as an investment in the well-being of children, adolescents, youth, families and communities; and,
  • Resolution 58/3 – Promoting the protection of children and young people, with particular reference to the illicit sale and purchase of internationally or nationally controlled substances and of new psychoactive substances via the Internet.
  • Resolution 58/7
    Strengthening cooperation with the scientific community, including academia, and promoting scientific research in drug demand and supply reduction policies in order to find effective solutions to various aspects of the world drug problem (operative paragraph 2)
  • Resolution 59/6
    Promoting prevention strategies and policies (operative paragraphs 5 and 14)
  • Outcome Document of UNGASS 2016 on the World Drug Problem (paragraph 1.(h))
  • Resolution 60/7
    Promoting scientific evidence-based community, family and school programmes and strategies for the purpose of preventing drug use among children and adolescents

The documents are presently available only in English, but they are being translated in all UN official languages, and uploaded shortly. Russian translation is already available.

International Standards on Drug Use Prevention

Appendix I – References

Appendix II – Description of the methodology utilized for the collection, assessment and utilization of the scientific evidence

Appendix II Annex I –  List of mediating variables

Appendix II Annex II – Instruments for the assessment of evidence

Appendix II Annex III – List of interventions and possible study designs

Appendix II Annex IV – Summary of the quality assessment

Appendix II Annex V – Summary results of ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’ studies

College students may face pressures from opioid epidemic's secondary effects

Published on: August 13, 2018
more info

Opioids

About one in five college students reported in a survey that they knew someone who was addicted to pain medications, and nearly a third said they knew somebody who overdosed on painkillers or heroin, according to a team of undergraduate Penn State Lehigh Valley researchers.

This secondary exposure to opioid abuse may shine a light on the collateral damage that is often left out of the current debate about the epidemic, said Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology, Penn State Lehigh Valley.

“Since the beginning of the opioid epidemic, public debate and prevention strategies have focused on the primary victims, misusers themselves, while surprisingly little attention has been paid to the burdens felt and experienced by those who are intimately or socially tied to them,” said Parker, who advised the group of researchers presenting at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting today (Aug. 11) in Philadelphia.

According to the researchers, most of the 118 students who completed a survey admitted that they had been in some way exposed to people who misuse drugs and alcohol. Of those, 20.5 percent said they currently know someone who is addicted to pain medication. About 32.5 percent said they knew somebody who overdosed on either painkillers or heroin.

Erica Hughes, an undergraduate student in health policy administration, added about 15 percent of the students reported worrying that someone they knew may be misusing pain medication.

“I was surprised by how many students report close ties to people who are addicted to or have overdosed on opioids,” Hughes said. “It makes me sad to think that so many are carrying around this worry because being a student in today’s world is already hard enough.”

Hughes added that dealing with issues connected to their exposure to the effects of opioid abuse may be particularly difficult for college students. Many college students already face increased pressure from rising tuition costs and student debt, along with fears about the job market, she added.

Amanda Borges, a 2018 graduate in health policy administration, said that the findings might raise awareness about the extent of the opioid crisis and offer insight into better ways to address it.

“The general public should know how devastating this crisis has been and how it impacts all communities and social classes including college students,” said Borges.

Gathering information on all aspects of the opioid crisis may help better allocate resources to help communities, added Kirsten Mears, also a 2018 graduate in health policy administration.

“The more we know, the better we are able to help and identify how particular communities, especially our poorest, may have certain disadvantages in this epidemic because of lesser resources and lack of health insurance,” said Mears.

According to the researchers, gender may also play a role in how college students report their exposures to the opioid problem. For example, women were twice as likely to report having intimate ties to those who misuse or overdose on opioids, the researchers said.

Shanice Clark and a team of 15 undergraduate students in health policy administration also contributed to the study.

The researchers collected data from surveys filled out by students at a university in a region particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis.

Of the approximate 130 surveys were passed out, participants completed 122. Of those, the researchers determined that 118 surveys were both completed and valid. 

The researchers said that future research should look at whether secondary exposure to opioids impacts the students’ mental and physical health, as well as their academic performance.

Penn State forms addiction legal resources team at Dickinson Law

Published on: July 30, 2018
more info

Addiction Legal Resources Team

With the number of opioid overdose deaths continuing to rise in Pennsylvania, a group of Penn State Dickinson Law students and faculty are becoming advocates and providing resources for those who are affected by addictions.

Led by Matthew Lawrence, assistant professor of law at Dickinson Law and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Penn State College of Medicine, the group of six students are working to develop and disseminate legal resources, promote informed policy making, and facilitate scholarly research in the states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Florida.

“The project, called the Addiction Legal Resources Team (ALRT), had its genesis in a paper I wrote exploring legal barriers families face when trying to advocate for a loved one who has substance use disorder,” said Lawrence. “While conducting a search for a research assistant to continue this work, I was overwhelmed by student interest in finding outlets to contribute to address the crisis. Several of our law students had a personal connection with the opioid crisis or work experience with addiction programs in their home states.

With the support of Dickinson Law Dean Gary Gildin, Lawrence was able to support six students part-time this summer.  “Thanks to their passion, experience, and home-state connections, the team has exceeded my expectations and developed several meaningful efforts in our first few short months. They’ve also inspired my own scholarship in this area,” Lawrence said.

ALRT student team members Bryan Caffrey, Andrea Jenkins, Evan Marmie, Tori Remington, Alex Short, and Wyatt Weisenberg are working on various projects in each of their home states. Team members are disseminating and developing legal resources for patients and families navigating the legal system to assist them with obtaining insurance coverage for addiction treatment. They are also advising Penn State researchers on legal questions encountered in their research. The team meets weekly, with some students using Dickinson Law conference rooms to videoconference with the rest of the team to discuss projects, deadlines, and new collaborations. Students then pursue individual projects during the week. 

“The students are working together and with me to chip away at the issue and do something helpful. One major focus has been on insurance coverage for treatment, specifically resources related to the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA),” explained Lawrence. MHPAELA is a federal law that ensures group health plans and health insurance issuers who provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits offer coverage that is comparable to medical/surgical benefits coverage. Many individuals affected by substance use disorder are unfamiliar with the law and the challenging appeals process when receiving an insurance coverage denial.

“Our goal as a team is to research and present information for individuals or their family members who might be suffering from substance use disorder, helping them find medical treatment and navigate a rather convoluted regulatory landscape,” said ALRT student team member Bryan Caffrey.

The students are also conducting legal research in each of their home states and are developing policy memos for dissemination to scholars and collaborators. For example, they are sharing their work with the Parity of 10 project, which advocates MHPAEA in mental health and drug abuse cases.

The program has been a beneficial educational experience for the students as well. “One thing I’ve learned that is very important when it comes to researching health care policy and implementation is the important way that the administration of statutes comes into effect. It’s not simply enough to look at statutes, which might be natural for law students, but also look to how administrative agencies and corporations that administer healthcare have turned those statutes into actual practical policies that affect people every day in their lives,” Caffrey said.

Another student wrote a policy memo regarding several state and local programs and Lawrence encouraged him to circulate it more broadly. The memo ultimately appeared on Harvard Law School’s Bill of Health blog, and that student has been invited to contribute additional memos to the blog.

“The project has led to the students thinking more about the community side of the addictions crisis, focusing on the family and how to outreach and apply our legal research,” said Lawrence. “I can’t emphasize enough how much this effort has been inspired and driven by this passionate and talented group of students and what a privilege it has been to work with them. We are looking forward to continuing the addiction legal resources team’s work into the fall semester and beyond.”

ALRT project supporters and collaborators beyond Dickinson Law include Parity at 10, Partnership for Drug Free Kids, Legal Action Center, Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, Partnership for Better Health PA’s Opioid Prescribing Task Force, and Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Surgery. The ALRT can be reached at ALRT@dsl.psu.edu.

Family-Focused Approaches to Opioid Addiction Improve the Effectiveness of Treatment

Published on: July 24, 2018
more info

Family

– Written by Helena J.V. Rutherford, Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine, Declan T. Barry, Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine, and Linda C. Mayes, MD, Yale School of Medicine
– Edited by Rebekah Levine Coley, Ph.D., Boston College
– For more information, contact Martha Zaslow, Ph.D. Director for Policy, Society for Research in Child Development, at mzaslow[at]srcd.org

[Download a PDF]

In treating opioid addiction, moving from an individual approach to a family-focused approach to treatment can have lasting benefits for children and parents, and decrease health care costs. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid addiction a public health emergency. Opioids—which include prescription medicines for pain relief, synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, and heroin(1) —lead to an average of 115 deaths by overdose per day in the United States.(2,3)The medical and legal response has mainly focused on individual needs, yet opioid addiction has wide-ranging impacts not only on individuals, but also on their families and children. New evidence finds that family-focused approaches can improve upon models that treat individuals, expanding benefits and cost efficiencies, and improving the health and development of children.

Opioid Addiction Affects Whole Families, With Important Implications for Children
Parents’ opioid addiction affects children’s development from the prenatal stage through adulthood. These effects occur both directly, through biological and neurological processes, and indirectly, through compromised parenting and family stress.

  • Since 2000, the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has increased fivefold; these infants experience opioid withdrawal after exposure in utero. Neonatal abstinence syndrome increases hospital stays at an estimated annual cost of $1.5 billion,(4,5) and can induce tremors, seizures, irritability, disrupted sleep, and intense crying in infants.(6)
  • Neuroscience research suggests that parents with addiction show compromised functioning in areas of the brain critical to caregiving, including areas that regulate stress and process emotions.(7,8) In turn, parents with addiction struggle with the stresses of childrearing, leading to less sensitive and supportive parenting, which may hinder children’s social and emotional development.(8)
  • Parents with substance use disorders often raise children in chaotic and impoverished households,(9) contexts that have been shown to impede children’s development and lead to detrimental health outcomes in adolescence and adulthood.(10,11)
  • Over the long term, parents’ opioid addiction, coupled with chaotic home environments, increase the chances that children will engage in substance use,(12,13) setting the stage for intergenerational drug abuse and lifelong health consequences for children.(14)
  • In some states, under child-endangerment laws, parents who use opioids and other illicit drugs during pregnancy are automatically referred to child protective services.(15) These laws can result in parental incarceration and children’s removal from their home. Applying such approaches indiscriminately without adequate opportunities for treatment can harm family stability and children’s mental health.(16,17)

Current Treatment Options Are Limited
The gold standard treatment option for adult opioid addiction is the controlled administration of prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, termed opioid agonist treatment.(18,19) For pregnant women, this treatment optimizes maternal and neonatal outcomes after birth.(19) Yet access is limited by cost constraints and lack of coverage through Medicaid and private insurance.(18) Even for parents who have access, opioid agonist treatment programs often overlook the impact of opioid addiction on children and families. Similarly, programs rarely attend to the cooccurrence of addiction and other mental health issues.(20) Other treatment approaches that are often easier to afford, such as medically supervised discontinuation of opioid use during pregnancy, have high relapse rates and less maternal engagement in prenatal care, and do not provide postnatal parenting support essential for healthy child development.(21)

Family-Focused Treatment Models Can Fill Gaps and Improve Children’s Well-Being
Because opioid addiction affects not only parents but also children and families, we need family-focused treatment models that attend to the needs of, and optimize outcomes for, both parents and children. Current treatment approaches fall short in meeting these goals, yet there are successful models that can inform improvements in treatment. Specifically, evidence suggests the need for coordinated and family-focused treatment models, particularly those that promote effective parenting. Numerous family-focused models have proven effective. Research shows that:

  • Evidence-based programs that combine opioid agonist treatment with efforts to help opioid-addicted parents regulate their emotions, lower their stress, and find pleasure in their caregiving role have led to decreases in the severity of maternal addiction as well as improved well-being for mothers and children.(22,23,24)
  • Among families with infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, strategies to empower mothers by supporting their direct involvement in the care of their infants have resulted in reduced hospital stays, decreased hospital costs, and less treatment involving pharmacologic withdrawal for newborns.(25)
  • Other promising approaches seek to extend family-focused support to opioid-addicted women during pregnancy to lay the groundword for mother-child relationships and decrease substance use before babies are born.(26)

Critical Next Steps for Targeting Opioid Addiction and Improving the Lives of Children and Families
Family-focused approaches have beneficial effects on multiple family members and may reduce overall health care costs. We now need carefully planned expansions of family-focused treatment models with continued evaluations to determine when and for whom such treatments are appropriate and most effective, and how integrated care models can best maximize the efficacy of opioid agonist treatment and address co-occurring medical and psychiatric conditions.

Opioids and non-opioid analgesics affect different types of stress

Published on: July 17, 2018
more info

Opioids and stress

Mu-opioids and non-opioid analgesics appear to differentially affect the psychological and physiological components of psychosocial stress, according to a recent study funded by NIDA, NIGMS, and NIMH.

In a between-subject design, healthy young adults (18-40 y) were randomly assigned to receive either 2 or 4 mg of hydromorphone (mu-opioid analgesic), 1000 mg of acetaminophen (non-opioid analgesic), or placebo and were tested in the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and a non-stressful control task (NSCT). Physiological responses to stress included heart rate, blood pressure, salivary cortisol and pupillometry, and psychological measures included subjective reports of mood and stress.

TSST successfully increased all measures of physiological stress and increased anxiety and negative mood compared to the control task. Hydromorphone (4 mg) dose dependently decreased cortisol stress response, but acetaminophen did not. Both hydromorphone and acetaminophen reduced ratings of how challenging participants found the task. This suggests acetaminophen, the non-opioid analgesic, affects psychological responses to stress, not physiological, whereas hydromorphone affects both. Only the mu-opioid system was involved with physiological stress responses in humans, which builds upon similar results in preclinical studies. The results here contribute a greater understanding of the role of opioid and non-opioid systems in the complex physiological and psychological responses to social stress.

'Share Your Opioid Story' website bringing awareness, buzz of opioid epidemic

Published on: July 3, 2018
more info

SYOS logo

Watch the WJAC-TV news coverage of the “Shair Your Opioid Story” website, featuring SSRI Director Susan McHale and Justice Center for Research’s Glenn Sterner.

Penn State researchers hope website humanizes, helps others affected by opioids

Published on: June 25, 2018
more info

Opiates

Stories can speak as loudly as statistics.

That is the purpose behind “Share Your Opioid Story,” an initiative designed to raise public awareness of the impact of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania and empower Pennsylvanians affected by the epidemic to talk openly about the effects of opioid addiction. Stories of individuals, family members, and friends affected by the epidemic can be found — and shared — online at shareyouropioidstory.com.

“Share Your Opioid Story” is being coordinated by Glenn Sterner, a postdoctoral scholar in the Justice Center for Research at Penn State and assistant professor of criminal justice at Penn State Abington, beginning this fall.

“The goal of the project is to portray a more human side of the opioid epidemic and the impact it has on individuals, family members, friends and communities regardless of someone’s background,” said Sterner. “We want to lessen the stigma surrounding the crisis and enable people to talk about it more openly, all while helping those most affected get the help they desperately need.”

“Dr. Sterner’s impactful work clearly supports Penn State’s land-grant mission to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth and the nation,” said Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. “The rapid growth and spread of the opioid epidemic and its tragic consequences demand Penn State’s attention, and this project is one of many meaningful endeavors through which the University is addressing this crisis.”

Funding for “Share Your Opioid Story” comes from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation with additional support from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The project is being launched in conjunction with the unveiling of the foundation’s “Someone You Know” initiative — a multimedia campaign in southeastern Pennsylvania featuring a mix of print and outdoor advertising, personal videos and print stories from people affected by opioid addiction that the foundation hopes will inspire others seeking help with addiction and recovery.

“Through bold, direct and highly personal stories, we hope to raise public awareness that substance misuse is not a problem that people should be ashamed to discuss,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, in a release announcing the campaign. “With simple and inspiring messages … we hope to help remove the stigma that often prohibits people from seeking help and starting on the path to recovery.”

“Too often we hear that stigma around substance use disorder leaves people feeling isolated and can keep them out of treatment,” added Jennifer Smith, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. “Addiction is a disease, and like any other medical condition, people with a substance use disorder deserve compassion and support as they take steps towards recovery. We must all work to change the conversation around addiction so people seeking treatment and living in recovery feel safe, supported and empowered. This campaign is an important, much-needed step towards breaking this stigma.”

“Share Your Opioid Story” also provides links to a host of local, state and federal resources for individuals who need assistance themselves or are looking for information to help someone else struggling with opioid addiction. To learn more, visit shareyouropioidstory.com or email the project at shareopioidstories@gmail.com.

Opioid crisis funding opportunities

Published on: June 12, 2018
more info

Opioids

Funding opportunities to address the opioid crisis are available from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Office for Victims of Crime, and Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Research supports restrictions on opioid-containing cold medicines for children

Published on: May 25, 2018
more info

Cough syrup

Prescription cough and cold medicines containing the opioid hydrocodone are more likely to cause serious side effects in children than those containing codeine, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine. The research supports recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions on prescription hydrocodone- and codeine-containing cough medicines for children and suggests that opioids in general should not be prescribed for coughs and colds in pediatric populations.

Historically, most of the guidance around children’s prescription cough and cold medications has focused on the opioid codeine. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against the use of codeine-containing cough and cold medications in children for two decades due to safety concerns, and in 2017 the FDA ruled that codeine should not be used to treat cough or pain in children younger than 12 years old.

In January 2018, the FDA expanded its restrictions, announcing that prescription cough medicines containing either codeine or hydrocodone can only be labeled for use in adults 18 and over because the risks of opioid-containing cough products outweigh the potential benefits in children.

The new study supports the FDA’s decision, according to Dr. Ian Paul, a physician and professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.

The study grew out of a larger safety surveillance project by Paul and colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, looking at adverse events associated with over-the-counter pediatric cough and cold medications.

During this project, the surveillance system also detected serious side effects in children who had ingested prescription cough and cold medications that combined typically over-the-counter ingredients with opioid medications. Despite the public attention around codeine in children’s cold medications, the researchers noted that many of the adverse events were more likely to be linked to hydrocodone-containing prescriptions. This discovery led them to conduct the new study.

Using the surveillance data, the researchers analyzed adverse events in children under 12 years old that were associated with cough and cold medications including both an opioid and an over-the-counter ingredient. Between January 2008 and December 2015, there were 98 cases involving an adverse event at least potentially related to codeine or hydrocodone. In most of the cases, the medications were either prescribed to the children or accidentally ingested without supervision.

The sedative properties of opioids, which are particularly worrisome in children, were frequently reported but were more common in children who took hydrocodone. Drowsiness, lethargy, and respiratory depression were reported in 86 percent of hydrocodone cases compared with 61 percent of codeine cases.

There were also three deaths reported, all of which were associated with hydrocodone combined with an antihistamine.

The research appeared recently in the journal Clinical Toxicology.

“You could argue from this data that the adverse events profile from hydrocodone-containing cough and cold medication ingestion appears to be more concerning than that from codeine-containing drugs,” Paul said. The message? “Healthcare providers should never prescribe opioid-containing cough and cold products to children. Ever.”

Paul also emphasized that children usually don’t need prescription medications for a cold.

“Parents of children with colds should remember that they typically resolve in their own with time. Supportive measures, like using non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help a child’s comfort. There’s some evidence that honey is effective for children one year of age and older and that topical vapor rub can be used for children ages two and up. And they can use nasal saline and humidified air to help a child get through the illness.”

Other researchers on this project were Kate M. Reynolds and Jody L. Green, both at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center at the Denver Health and Hospital Authority.

This study is funded through an unrestricted grant provided by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association Pediatric Cough Cold Task Group. Green reported grants from Consumer Healthcare Products Association Pediatric Cough Cold Task Group, during the conduct of the study and grants from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, outside the submitted work. Paul reported personal fees from Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, both outside the submitted work.

Opioid crisis requires social and behavioral research solutions

Published on: May 18, 2018
more info

NIH logo

Each day, more Americans die from drug overdoses (175) than from motor vehicle accidents (110). Many of these overdoses are accidental, and some are intentional, but nearly all are the result of social and behavioral factors. In response to the opioid crisis, the NIH convened a meeting on March 5-6, 2018, “Contributions of Social and Behavioral Research in Addressing the Opioid Crisis.” This meeting was part of the NIH Cutting-Edge Science Meeting Series to End the Opioid Crisis, and was led by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) partnering with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), and the NIH Immediate Office of the Director (IMOD).

The goals of the meeting were to specify key actionable social and behavioral science findings that can be brought to bear immediately to address the opioid crisis, and identify critical short-term research priorities that have the potential to improve the opioid crisis response. To advance these goals, participants described current research findings and identified high priority scientific gaps and recommendations organized in five panels:

Panel 1: Sociocultural and socioeconomic underpinnings of the crisis;

Panel 2: Behavioral and social factors preventing opioid initiation and mitigating the transition from acute to chronic opioid use;

Panel 3:  Incorporating nonpharmacologic approaches to the treatment of opioid abuse and chronic pain management;

Panel 4: Challenges and barriers to implementing prevention and treatment strategies; and

Panel 5: Effective models of integrated approaches.

These panels generated several “key things we know” and “key things we need to know” to address the opioid crisis that will be included in a meeting summary that will be posted this month. I was impressed by the breadth and diversity of social and behavioral research findings that, if implemented, could have an immediate impact on reducing opioid use. This meeting agenda, participant list, and video recording, are available on the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative web page. The meeting summary will be posted on this web page later this month.

With an additional $500 million appropriated for opioid addiction research, the NIH will nearly double the funding available to study opioid addiction, from $600 million in 2016 to $1.1 billion in 2018. The “Contributions of Social and Behavioral Research in Addressing the Opioid Crisis” meeting provides a useful framework for integrating social and behavioral research questions in the HEAL Initiative. OBSSR will continue to work with the NIH Institutes and Centers involved in the NIH Health Initiative to ensure that developing research initiatives address some of the key research priorities identified by this meeting. The social and behavioral sciences already have contributed substantially to the knowledge base needed to address this crisis. What is needed now is greater implementation of what we already know and a serious, concerted research effort to answer key research questions to improve our ability to address this crisis.

Penn State is represented at congressional briefing addressing opioid epidemic

Published on: May 4, 2018
more info

Stephanie Bradley

Penn State researcher Stephanie Bradley, director of the Evidence-Based Prevention & Intervention Support Center (EPISCenter), was one of five experts on a panel who recently briefed Congress on the rising opioid epidemic and efforts to combat the problem through evidence-based prevention programs and public health approaches.

The congressional briefing highlighted a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust, “Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy.” According to the report, deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide accounted for one million deaths from 2006 to 2015. With the rapid rise of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil use, the report predicted death rates could double to two million by 2025.

The report also found that there were disproportionately large increases in drug deaths among racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly among black Americans, who experienced an increase of 39 percent in drug deaths between 2015 and 2016. Additionally, Latinos saw drug death rates increase 24 percent, while the rate for whites increased 19 percent during those same years.

The report calls for a national resilience strategy that takes a comprehensive approach focusing on prevention, early identification of issues, and effective treatment, which is also the approach advocated by the EPISCenter.

The center’s expertise includes translating high-quality research to ensure communities and policymakers have access to the most recent and rigorous research around what works in preventing youth substance use and other problem behaviors. Bradley’s presentation focused on prevention science, effective upstream prevention programs, and the need for prevention infrastructure at federal, state and local levels.

“While the congressional briefing focused on deaths of despair, I explained that substantial research has identified upstream risk factors in early childhood and adolescence that increase risk for multiple problem outcomes, including but not limited to substance use and depression,” Bradley explained. “Proven, effective prevention strategies target early risk indicators, such as family conflict, low attachment to school, perceived norms about antisocial behaviors, and coping skills. When risk-focused strategies are used we are able to address a wider array of possible outcomes for youth and families. This means we have the opportunity to prevent a number of problems from occurring, many of which may not be on our radar today but could be issues in a few years.”

Bradley says that while the opioid crisis is drawing attention and resources, it is also allowing the EPISCenter opportunities to highlight the role that early prevention can play in stemming the epidemic. “We’ve worked previously with Trust for America’s Health and Well Being on legislation recommendations for state and local prevention infrastructure, and members of the center regularly meet with policymakers to discuss upstream prevention programs and practices that are effective at preventing all types of problem behaviors, including the misuse of prescription opioids.”

The EPISCenter is also partnering with University of Pittsburgh’s PA Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center to support their work on prevention strategies.

Additionally, Bradley served as a member of Opioid Prevention Subcommittee of the Governor’s Advisory Board for Health, to which she and subcommittee member Alice Yoder of Lancaster General Health submitted a white paper on upstream prevention strategies. This white paper was recently shared with the PA Opioid Command Center for consideration.

Bradley is also a member of the Penn State Advisory Board for Combating the Opioid Epidemic, and is often called to serve on panels, town halls and trainings on this issue. Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute is providing leadership for this advisory board, which includes experts from 15 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes, representing seven colleges and four campuses, as well as several offices.

The EPISCenter represents a collaborative partnership between the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), and Penn State’s Prevention Research Center and College of Health and Human Development. The EPISCenter is funded by PCCD, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.