Tag Archives: opioids

Style guide changes address language about addiction, gender

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: Sharyn Morrow via Flickr

The most recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook – the premier guide for copy editors – has a number of updates that are important for health journalists to be aware of. Many of them are around the subject of drug and alcohol use and misuse, which many of my colleagues find themselves writing about quite a bit these days.

Continue reading

A cautionary tale: Have you checked that citation?

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: Tom Walker via Flickr

No fewer than four of the 2016 winners of the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism covered the opioid epidemic from different angles. No surprise — former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy noted last year that more Americans suffer from addiction than from cancer. During his tenure, Murthy made the opioid crisis a top priority.

Murthy’s 2016 report on addiction has been compared to an influential report on smoking decades earlier, and he created a website devoted specifically to addressing the opioid crisis. But how much of it could have been prevented with a bit less complacency on the part of researchers? Continue reading

New study tracks hospital opioid prescribing for older adults

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: frankieleon via Flickr

Too many physicians are prescribing opioid medications for hospitalized older adults who may not need them. A new study found that one-third of 10,000 older patients were prescribed opioid pain medications, including Percocet and OxyContin, while hospitalized for non-surgical conditions.

These patients had a longer length of stay (six days vs. four) and were more often readmitted within 30 days. They were also more likely to be restrained or have bladder catheters while hospitalized, according to the retrospective analysis. Continue reading

Reporter’s work pushes regulators, legislators to act on opioids

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Sam Owens, Charleston Gazette-MailEric Eyre’s investigative series, Painkiller Profiteers, chronicled massive pain pill shipments to West Virginia. This shows the cremated ashes of a West Virginia woman who died from a drug overdose.

Lack of work, educational gaps, despair, overprescribing – there’s a host of reasons behind the nation’s opioid crisis. It may seem daunting to reporters who want to nail down the epidemic’s causes, but sometimes you just have to keep digging – literally.

West Virginia reporter Eric Eyre realized something was off when, during a trip to the state pharmacy board, he began digging through boxes filled with faxes from drug wholesalers reporting suspicious pharmacy activity. Continue reading

Eyre’s Pulitzer-winning work shows power of hard data, big numbers

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Eric Eyre

In two days in December, the Charleston Gazette-Mail published two blockbuster articles about the opioid crisis in West Virginia, the results of months of reporting by Eric Eyre, the paper’s statehouse reporter.

Anyone who read them would recognize that Eyre’s work was outstanding, if only for the numbers he included in each piece. Over six years, the nation’s largest drug distributors shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to pharmacies in the state, he reported. In that same period, 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers, he wrote. Drug distributors shipped enough hydrocodone and oxycodone for each of the state’s 1.8 million residents to have 433 pills. Continue reading