overdose

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The Heroin Wars: Drug Use Surges In East — And Beyond

The New York Times reports that heroin use is surging in small towns and cities around New England, driven in part by restrictions on doctors prescribing painkillers (and pill that are harder to crush and snort) coupled with relatively easy access to cheap heroin:

From quaint fishing villages on the Maine coast to the interior of the Great North Woods extending across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, officials report a sharp rise in the availability of the crystalline powder and in overdoses and deaths attributed to it. “It’s easier to get heroin in some of these places than it is to get a UPS delivery,” said Dr. Mark Publicker, an addiction specialist here…Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, according to the state’s Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago. In Vermont, the Health Department reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40 percent.

michelle.irish/flickr

(michelle.irish/Flickr)

Heroin is all over the news these days, with the tragic death of 31-year-old “Glee” star Cory Monteith, who authorities say overdosed on heroin and alcohol.

And WBUR’s On Point aired an excellent segment yesterday on heroin’s “new reach,” including this riveting exchange between Rock Star Raven, a 32-year-old woman from New York who actually spoke with host Tom Ashbrook on her way to score some heroin. From the transcript:

RAVEN: I’ve worked at a bank for a while now and it doesn’t really discriminate. And it’s very, very difficult to stop and you can continue to be successful, to some degree, while continuing that lifestyle and it’s very difficult to get off. I agree Suboxone can be extremely helpful, however if you don’t continue using it responsibly you can continue your problem.
TOM: Raven, let me be very clear, you’re on the way to pick up heroin right now?
RAVEN: That is correct. Continue reading

How Much Coffee Can Kill You?

Lethal weapon: It would take about 42 cups of coffee to kill you

Between the Arctic weather, the long days with kids home from school and a communal case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (listen to Tom Ashbrook’s excellent segment on this yesterday) blanketing the region, I’ve been drinking more than my share of coffee to keep on top of things — probably triple my normal daily dose. I’m guessing I’m not alone here.

So I was pleased to read this report in The New York Times that said for caffeine to be lethal, it would probably take a lot more than a few new Starbucks Trentas. According to the piece, you’d need to drink about 42 cups of coffee in one sitting to kill you.

Still, caffeine overdoses are not uncommon:

Concentrations of caffeine in blood plasma that are higher than 15 milligrams per liter of blood can cause toxic reactions, and caffeine overdoses are a relatively common cause of poisoning emergencies, with 4,183 such cases reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2007.Only one death occurred among those cases.

When caffeine does kill, the reported causes are abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and breathing in vomit.