In two separate blog posts in 2016, we discussed opioid use rates and substance use issues among adolescent girls involved with juvenile justice. In July 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health (OWH) released a report on opioid use, misuse, and overdose in women. The report provides information on the gender-specific issues and gaps in knowledge regarding females with substance use concerns/disorders. The report discusses the differences among females and males regarding the progression of substance use, the biological, social, and cultural issues (e.g., pain; relationships; family/parenting; trauma, determinants of health), effective treatments and barriers to implementation, and areas for further research. As it relates to adolescent girls (ages 12-17 years old), the report indicates they are more likely to use and become dependent on non-medical uses of prescription drugs as compared to adolescent boys. Access to prescription drugs can come from a home medicine cabinet and may help relieve mental health or physical pain symptoms and/or be part of their peer culture.
America is facing a heroin and opiate crisis. Heroin is increasingly popular – a report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration indicates that first-time heroin users doubled between 2006 and 2013 and data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that deadly heroin overdoses increased sixfold in the years between 2001 and 2014. More than ever before, this crisis is addressed as a public health issue more than a public safety or criminal justice issue. This shift has sparked much public debate about why this is the case. Have we finally reached a tipping point as a society in our views of addiction as a health concern? Have irresponsible pain management prescription practices contributed to opening our eyes to one of the epidemic’s root causes? Some argue that race is a critical part of the story and feel that the shifting demographic - with an apparent increase in the proportion of white heroin and opiate users - is what has changed the perception of heroin abuse and finally mobilized policy makers. In this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter, we focused our attention on the issues surrounding the opiate crisis and featured a new blog post by Reclaiming Futures Program and Policy Analyst Bridget Murphy.