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addiction

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma increased 91 percent over the last decade and a half, prompting the state to form a task force charged with a daunting goal: Brainstorm a plan to guide the state out of an opioid epidemic that kills three Oklahomans nearly every day.


Reveal: Too Many Pills

Jan 29, 2018
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL I SCHILLER FOR REVEAL. PHOTO OF PILL BOTTLE AND HANDS BY FRANKIE LEON VIA FLICKR

Drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, largely thanks to a surge in opioid use. Although heroin and fentanyl have dominated the headlines in recent years, the problem started with a flood of prescription painkillers, distributed by some of the country’s biggest corporations.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Twenty years is a long time to live with a drug addiction, but Rachel Wachel has done it. She tends bar, has a house and a car — and calls herself a functioning addict.

Top Arkansas Politician Uses Labor From Rehab Work Camp

Oct 31, 2017
Arkansas State Senator Majority Leader Jim Hendrens uses unpaid workers from a rehab center at his plastics company, Hendren Plastics, according to former workers and a new lawsuit.
Danny Johnston / Associated Press

One of Arkansas’ top politicians relies on unpaid workers from a local drug rehabilitation center at his plastics company, which makes dock floats sold at Home Depot and Walmart.

Hendren Plastics, owned by Arkansas State Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, partners with a rehab program under scrutiny for making participants work grueling jobs for free, under the threat of prison, according to interviews with former workers and a new lawsuit.

Reveal: Too Many Pills

Oct 23, 2017
Photo illustration by Michael I Schiller for Reveal. Photo of pill bottle and hands by Frankie Leon via Flickr

Drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, largely thanks to a surge in opioid use. Although heroin and fentanyl have dominated the headlines in recent years, the problem started with a flood of prescription painkillers, distributed by some of the country’s biggest corporations.

Rehab Work Camps Were About To Be Regulated. Then A Friend Stepped In

Oct 18, 2017
Oklahoma House of Representatives

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, here.

Desperate to reduce crowding in jails and prisons, court systems all over the country are trying diversion – alternatives to putting offenders behind bars. On today’s Reveal, we peek behind the good intentions and uneven results.
Gabriel Hongsdusit / Reveal

Desperate to reduce crowding in jails and prisons, court systems all over the country are trying diversion – alternatives to putting offenders behind bars. On today’s Reveal, we peek behind the good intentions and uneven results.

Reveal’s Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter investigate an Oklahoma recovery center called Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery, or CAAIR. The founders of the program say it’s all about helping people with addiction. It turns out it’s also a work camp for a major chicken company.

In Search of New Ways To Tame Opioid Crisis

Sep 18, 2017
Images Money / Flickr

Oklahoma is among the nation’s leaders in combating the opioid epidemic in some ways, but lags in others.

The question of what more Oklahoma can do to reduce the hundreds of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers each year will hover over the 2018 legislative session. A commission chaired by Attorney General Mike Hunter plans to recommend by Dec. 1 new strategies for attacking the problem. Some or all of its proposals will be folded into legislation.

Oklahoma Attorney General's Office

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the formation of a state task force to combat opioid addiction on Wednesday.  

The Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse will consist of nine members, including lawmakers, law enforcement, a dentist, a pharmacist, a nurse and a doctor. It will consider policy changes to prevent, treat and intervene in opioid addiction.

Justin Zagaruyka and his son talk to the press during Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's visit to Oklahoma City on May 17, 2016.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

Justin Zagaruyka’s problems with substance abuse began early. He started smoking marijuana when he was 11 or 12. Within a couple years, he was using methamphetamine. He kicked meth four years later, but then he started drinking heavily. Soon, he was taking opiates.

“I’d go use the opiates because it would sober me up a little bit, you know, when I’d get too drunk. So I would go snort a lortab or a roxy and then I would be back up and ready to go and I could drink more,” Zagaruyka said.

gambling man
Adrian Simpson / Flickr Creative Commons

Addiction treatment specialists say as dozens of tribal casinos popped up throughout the state in the past decade, resources for problem gamblers haven't kept pace.

Only 45 certified counselors are available at 12 treatment facilities, but specialists say there should be at least double the counselors.

The facilities are often located many miles from where problem gamblers live. One county in the northeastern part of the state has 11 casinos in a 30-mile radius but zero counselors.

The Javoric / Flickr Creative Commons

When the state of Kentucky decided two years ago to require doctors to check their patients’ drug-taking histories before writing new narcotic prescriptions, some physicians were adamantly opposed.

The doctors said mandatory checks would cause them to waste valuable time and money running checks on patients with legitimate pain and anxiety problems. They said they didn’t need an online database to help them spot “doctor-shoppers” who might be obtaining prescriptions from more than one doctor.

Then, a funny thing happened.

Last year, Oklahoma pharmacies filled 9.7 million prescriptions--or nearly 600 million doses--for controlled dangerous substances. Prescribers logged into the Prescription Monitoring Program database 1.2 million times, suggesting that many do not use the system routinely. An investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Oklahoman determined that the lack of routine PMP checks is one factor contributing to a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma.