AG Paxton Launches New Dose of Reality
Website to Educate Texans About the
Dangers of Opioid Abuse
AUSTIN, TX – In his office’s latest initiative to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, Attorney General Ken Paxton today launched Dose of Reality, a new comprehensive website to inform and educate Texans about the dangers of misusing prescription painkillers.
Attorney General Paxton was joined at a press conference by Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Courtney N. Phillips.
“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids cost lives and devastate Texas families in every region of our state,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Opioids such as OxyContin and hydrocodone are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects. When patients are not well informed, these drugs can inflict far more pain than they prevent. The Dose of Reality website is intended to give Texans the information they need to avoid those unintended consequences. My office will continue to do everything it can to protect Texans from the opioid crisis.”
Dose of Reality provides individuals, patients, health care providers, teachers, coaches and others with opioid-related resources in one location, allowing for quick and easy access to vital information.
The new website includes details on approaches to preventing opioid abuse and addiction, proper pain management, safe storage of prescription painkillers and guidelines on responding to an opioid overdose. It also features a statewide take back map of locations that accept prescription opioids for safe disposal.
Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
Each day, 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses.
Nationwide, there were 42,249 opioid overdoses in 2016, including 1,375 opioid-related deaths in Texas.
The death toll attributed to opioids in the U.S. has quadrupled over the last two decades.
In 2017, Attorney General Paxton and a bipartisan group of 40 other state attorneys general initiated an investigation into whether companies that manufacture and distribute prescription opioids engaged in unlawful practices. Last May, Attorney General Paxton filed a major consumer protection lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act involving the company’s prescription opioids, including OxyContin.
The nationally acclaimed and award-winning Dose of Reality website was conceived by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), in September 2015 provided to Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska at no cost. Attorney General Paxton’s office partnered with the Wisconsin DOJ, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services on content development for DoseofReality.Texas.gov
AG Paxton Files Court Brief to Safeguard
Women’s Health and Protect the Unborn
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton last night filed a motion in U.S. District Court asking for dismissal of Whole Woman’s Health’s lawsuit challenging almost all abortion laws and regulations in Texas.
“Whole Woman’s Health is attempting to circumvent the democratic process and use the courts to change dozens of laws passed by the people’s representatives in the Texas Legislature,” said Attorney General Paxton.
Whole Woman’s Health is challenging more than 60 individual state laws or regulations in 19 different categories, including the parental consent requirement for minors, 24-hour waiting period, ultrasound requirement, and criminal penalties for non-compliance.
Abortion clinics throughout Texas already comply with the current laws and, in some cases, they have been doing so for decades. For instance, abortion facilities have been required to meet state licensing requirements and report certain data to the state since 1985.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld laws like many of those challenged.
Some of the challenged laws include the state’s requirement that abortion providers sterilize their instruments, provide patients access to their medical records, the opportunity to ask questions and the right to be free from discrimination in their treatment.
“The financial interests of abortion doctors or their profit margins should never take precedence over women’s safety and well-being,” said Attorney General Paxton. “It’s shameful that Whole Woman’s Health no longer wants to comply with these common-sense regulations of abortion practice, many of which have previously been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In the United States, methamphetamine is making a comeback. Following the legalization of medical marijuana in California, Mexican cartels pivoted to the production of pure liquid meth, which is brought across the border and crystallized in conversion labs. There is more meth on the streets than ever before, according to William Ruzzamenti, a 30-year Drug Enforcement Administration veteran and the Executive Director of the Central Valley California HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). It’s also cheaper than ever—the average cost of an ounce of methamphetamine dropped from nearly $968 in 2013 to around $250 in 2016.
“I think a lot of people associate meth with the 1990s, and this comeback has gone largely unnoticed in the shadow of the heroin and opioid epidemics,” Mary Newman, a journalist at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, told The Atlantic.
Newman’s short documentary, Motherhood and Meth, focuses on the drug’s frequently overlooked and arguably most vulnerable victims: children. Although no scientific research has been conducted that directly correlates meth addiction to child abuse or neglect, many experts on the subject report a connection that Newman describes as “staggering.” In her film, Newman interviews Dr. Philip Hyden, a child abuse specialist who has worked across the U.S. for more than 30 years. Since 2010, Dr. Hyden has served as the medical director at the Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, the poorest urban ZIP code in the state. Fresno experiences a high incidence of child abuse, and Dr. Hyden attributes one cause to the high rate of methamphetamine addiction in the region. He estimates that meth use is involved in over 70% of the 1,000 abuse cases the clinic sees each year.
“We see children that have been beaten or abused in many scenarios where the perpetrator was on meth at the time,” Dr. Hyden says in the film. “We see things that are hard to believe that happen to kids.”
This abuse sometimes begins during pregnancy; an estimated 19,000 meth users in the U.S. are pregnant women. In home environments where meth is manufactured, children almost always test positive for methamphetamine—often at levels as high as addicted users, according to an expert in the film.
To get a firsthand look at the effects of methamphetamine addiction on mothers and their children, Newman’s documentary follows law enforcement officers, professionals at treatment facilities, and mothers affected by meth addiction who admit to having neglected their kids. Newman met many of these women at Fresno’s weekly free needle exchange. She interviewed more than twenty women—some of whom agreed to participate, only to disappear once a shoot date was scheduled—before she found the subjects featured in the film.
“Once I built up some essential trust with women willing to share their struggles of addiction, I would ask if meth ever caused them or someone in their life to become violent,” Newman said. “Everyone responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’” Newman added that she heard “harrowing” stories about domestic violence, child abuse, and a generational cycle of meth addiction. Many of the addicts she spoke to were either the child of a meth addict themselves or had experienced abuse early in life.
“The power methamphetamine has on a person’s life was the most surprising part of [reporting] this story,” Newman said. “I would speak with people struggling with addiction and they would have a certain self-awareness that their decisions were derailing their life, but they would also describe a feeling of complete helplessness.” Newman said that several people—both addicts and experts—described meth as “evil” due to the sheer power over the people that use it.
“These kids are the ultimate victims,” says a police officer in the film. “They didn’t ask for this.”
Number of Opioid-Addicted Women
Giving Birth Quadruples
By Dennis Thompson
The number of pregnant women addicted to opioids as they give birth has more than quadrupled since 1999, a disturbing new report shows.
In 2014, for every 1,000 hospital deliveries, 6.5 were mothers who arrived at the hospital with opioid use disorder, up from 1.5 per 1,000 in 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found.
This increase is likely linked to America’s ongoing opioid epidemic, said study co-author Jean Ko, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s division of reproductive health.
“With the opioid overdose epidemic, it’s natural to see increases in opioid use disorder among the general population,” Ko said. “Our data tell us that women presenting for labor and delivery are no different.
Opioid use during pregnancy has been tied to maternal death during delivery, stillbirth and preterm birth, the CDC researchers noted.
Even babies born healthy might have to go through opioid withdrawal, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Babies with NAS can experience tremors, convulsions, seizures, difficulty feeding, breathing problems, fever, diarrhea and trouble sleeping, according to the March of Dimes.
The CDC study used data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, focusing on 28 states with at least three years of data available for analysis.
Between 1999 and 2014, all 28 states saw significant increases in opioid-addicted pregnant women entering labor.
Vermont and West Virginia had the most cases of opioid-affected pregnancies in 2014. Vermont had 48.6 cases for every 1,000 deliveries; West Virginia had 32.1 cases per 1,000. On the low-end, Nebraska had 1.2 cases per 1,000 and the District of Columbia had 0.7 per 1,000.
The average annual rate increases were highest in Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and West Virginia. Those states all had growth of more than 2.5 cases per 1,000 each year — six times higher than the national average of 0.4 cases per 1,000.
The states with the lowest increases were California and Hawaii, with fewer than 0.1 new cases per 1,000 each year.
The new information “is very alarming and is a call to arms regarding this national health crisis,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.
“We are well aware of the association of opioid exposure and abuse with adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm labor and delivery, stillbirth, neonatal withdrawal syndrome and maternal mortality,” he said.
But Ko said concerns about babies with NAS should not dissuade pregnant women from taking medicines appropriately prescribed to treat chronic medical disorders, or from taking medications like methadone or buprenorphine that aid in addiction treatment.
The CDC recommends a number of strategies for countering this dangerous trend:
Making sure opioids are prescribed appropriately.
Strengthening state-level prescription drug monitoring programs.
Requiring substance abuse screening at the first prenatal visit, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Ensuring that pregnant women with opioid use disorder have access to addiction therapy, and that new opioid-addicted mothers receive postpartum care that includes mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Kramer pointed out that “the implications of this startling CDC data are that coordinated national, state and provider efforts are necessary to prevent, monitor and treat opioid use disorder among reproductive-aged and pregnant women.”
The report was published in the Aug. 10 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.