TOP NEWS While Congress was on recess this week, personnel issues were top-of-mind in Washington, D.C. – and that includes in the addiction treatment and recovery space! The President formally named Gov. Chris Christie to chair his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The president also named North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy; and Bertha Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and former deputy director in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to the bipartisan commission, which was established by executive order in March. We really liked, by the way, the statement Patrick Kennedy issued about his appointment. Here is part of it: My goal on this commission is to ensure that Americans living with the disease of opioid addiction can access evidence-based treatment. The opioid crisis is the single greatest threat to public health that we face today. It is not a Republican or a Democratic issue—we are first and foremost people with lived experience, family members, friends, colleagues, and caregivers. It will take urgent action and strategies from all sides to reverse the tide of overdoses and death. The pick to run the new mental health office at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appears poised to shake things up. And the Senate voted 57-42 to confirm Scott Gottlieb to lead the FDA. We signed a letter in support of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's funding and mission. A bipartisan group of Senators did the same. In policy news, the Congressional Budget Office said it would release its analysis of the House-passed health care bill early in the week of May 22. It appears that delay, and the distractions in Washington, have impacted the debate over health care policy. But HHS Secretary Tom Price said late this week he expects the Senate to pass its version by August. Of course, Senate Republicans already face their own divisions in the push for a health-care overhaul, and there is still the general feeling of uncertainty if other events will suck the energy away from health care. In the meantime, though, health care interest groups are saying they have found a more receptive Senate and a seat back at the table as the bill is put together. Some Republicans on the Hill are taking a close look at an idea they believe could actually expand health coverage: just enroll everyone in a health plan unless they opt out. But the one thing everyone agrees on: lower premiums. Meanwhile, as health insurance companies announce their intentions related to the federal and state “exchanges,” here’s an analysis of how we got here. Opioids. A welcome look by a U.S. House panel to probe drug distributors and the DEA amid the national opioid crisis. The investigation “comes after a spate of reports that drug distributors shipped nearly 780 million tablets of oxycodone and hydrocodone to pharmacies and pain clinics in West Virginia over a six-year period. One pharmacy alone, in a town of just 392 residents, received nearly 9 million tablets of hydrocodone in two years.” More from HHS Secretary Price, who has been touring the front lines of the opioid crisis, as has Attorney General Sessions. A lot of advocates were upset this week by comments from HHS Secretary Price that they interpreted as being against the use of medications in opioid treatment. But in this report, HHS confirms that it continues to support all effective treatments, including those involving medications. From our friends at the Addiction Policy Forum, praise for the opioid funding in the bipartisan omnibus spending bill. And the opioid crisis has become a central issue in the debate over Medicaid. As illicit fentanyl spreads, states step up their responses. Here is why we need to tighten up the use of prescription drug monitoring programs. Major grocery and pharmacy chain Hy-Vee announced it will sell Naloxone in Missouri without a prescription. The FDA suggests doctors learn about acupuncture as an alternative to opioids for their patients’ pain management. Wonder how often this happens: Man asks to be jailed to help him overcome heroin addiction after being caught shoplifting. Probably fueled by the opioid crisis, Hepatitis C infections have tripled in the past 5 years. And another article looks at the way children are impacted by this crisis. If the opioid overdose antidote naloxone were available in lockboxes on street corners, would people use it? Lots of news this week about colleges taking on the opioid epidemic, in the wake of the Clinton Foundation’s decision to send free Narcan to campuses nationwide. This editorial in New Jersey asks, “Why can't we find out which anti-addiction programs work, and which ones don't?” And “If that's a prime goal of the president's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis -- which (Gov. Chris) Christie chairs -- it's about time.” Another grim tale of medical examiners not being able to keep up with autopsies. The opioid crisis is leading more young people to need heart valve replacement. A look at addiction among Baby Boomers, and another story that looks at how the risk of opioid overdose increases with age. So sad that the heroin business is booming in America. Mexico’s drug wars cost 23,000 lives last year, making it the second deadliest conflict in the world, behind only the civil war in Syria. States are balancing the rights of opioid-addicted women with the health needs of their developing babies. Hospitals are rethinking the use of opioids. The FDA is revisiting the need for mandatory opioid prescriber training. Our colleague Jordan Hansen is co-presenting for this webinar put on by the National Council for Behavioral Health on May 25: Identifying and Lifting Barriers to Integrating Medication-Assisted Treatment with Twelve Step Modalities. And, let’s remember to always keep in mind the other side of the story: “I don’t use fentanyl to get high. It lets me live without chronic pain.” Advocate spotlight. One of our favorites, John Shinholser, takes the #1MillionMohawks challenge. Actor Colin Farrell opens up on the Ellen Degeneres show about his own recovery. Love the idea of a “recovery garden,” this one in Portland, Maine. Reminds us of an early sponsor, who spoke of a planted tree as an early “higher power” because of the power he saw in the way it grew! Veteran, mother of two and person in recovery shares inspirational story about going back to school and graduating from college! Musician Charlie Wilson bounces back. And Alice Cooper says golf has helped him stay sober. Our friend and former contributor Robert Ashford was awarded the President and Provost Citation for Excellence for his work in establishing Collegiate Recovery at the University of Pennsylvania. Congrats Robert! One of the top speakers at the recent “She Recovers” event in NYC, Elizabeth Vargas, continues to speak out publicly about her own battle with alcohol and anxiety. A pair of Utah siblings devote their lives to saving heroin users from overdosing, after losing their brother. Faces & Voices of Recovery has opened up nominations for the awards to be presented in July at its annual America Honors Recovery event. And this story, about a business specifically set up to give folks a second chance, will make you feel good! So too will this one on the business of creating jobs for those in recovery! Marijuana. Excellent op-ed by our own Dr. Marc Myer, who says ‘This isn’t your grandmother’s weed.’ Even legal marijuana shops are linked to higher crime. The Vermont legislature approves recreational marijuana use. The faculty at Harvard will vote on changes to its marijuana policy and vaping. Interesting article on how Oregon has not released the proceeds yet from its legal marijuana sales. Alcohol. Even though the “forgotten drug” sometimes gets forgotten, marketing firms don’t forget. And one of their techniques is outlined here: From Budweiser to Heineken, Alcohol Brands Are Rampant in Hollywood Films. According to new data published this week by the CDC, U.S. deaths attributable directly to alcohol reached the highest rate in the past 16 years in 2015, with 9.1 deaths per 100,000 people – a 28 percent increase since 1999. That means alcohol was directly responsible for almost 30,000 U.S. deaths in 2015. But, add in indirect deaths from alcohol-related car accidents, injuries, homicides, etc., and alcohol kills around 90,000 Americans annually. A little better news … fewer high school kids are drinking than at any point in the past 25 years, according to the CDC; unfortunately, many of those who do drink imbibe heavily. The fraternity hazing death at Penn State may lead to culture change. Many college presidents have despaired over the reckless partying on their campuses, both in and beyond the Greek system. But what can presidents realistically do? We have spoken before about the stigma “against sobriety” on college campuses, which is why this is an especially good sign! University of Iowa fraternities and sororities ban all events with alcohol. Alcohol can ruin your mental health; so why is it so rarely discussed? Health experts in Scotland are refreshing an effort to change the country’s relationship with alcohol, recommending the government aim to decrease alcohol consumption by 10 percent over the next 10 years. Shouldn’t we have a goal like that, too? In a study spanning 11 European countries, 16% of women reported that they drank alcohol after they knew that they were pregnant. Think about this for a moment – in the United Kingdom, 85 percent of people live within 500 meters of a pub, bar or nightclub selling alcohol. That’s less than a third of a mile. This story attempts to posit that there is a new phenomenon of people who have addiction but remain “functional.” News flash: most people with substance use disorders have jobs, and there’s nothing new about that at all. That said, it’s a good sign if more people are seeking help and finding recovery earlier in the process of addiction, before they become “dysfunctional.” Other college campus issues. Adderall use continues to rise. And more on the same topic. Criminal justice. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new guidelines for the Department of Justice, asking federal prosecutors to more aggressively pursue severe penalties for drug-related offenses. Advocates are worried about the potential impact. You can read a summary of the proposal here. Here is another piece on the directive, which could lead federal prosecutors to again charge the defendants with crimes carrying the most severe penalties and bring back the Drug War’s toughest practices.