The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

Substance Abuse Newsletter February 2018

The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are dealing with substance abuse issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.


Nebraska is the first state to require reporting of all dispensed prescription drugs to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NEHII) CEO Deb Bass said the move could save lives, not only for those taking opioids, but potentially for anyone taking prescribed drugs. NEHII and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services tapped Rockville, Maryland-based DrFirst to capture state prescription information and deliver it to its PDMP.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Rite Aid Corporation have reached a $4 million settlement regarding Rite Aid’s improper sale of the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine (PSE). The settlement funds will be used for crime victim compensation and treatment of drug addiction in West Virginia. The criminal investigation in the Southern District of West Virginia found improper sales between January 2009 and October 2012. The settlement includes Rite Aid’s full acceptance of responsibility for its improper sale of the methamphetamine precursor PSE; it acknowledges Rite Aid’s remedial efforts and ensures future steps to help prevent abuse of pseudoephedrine; and it mandates that Rite Aid pay $4 million dollars, which is approximately 80 percent of its gross sales of pseudoephedrine in West Virginia during the relevant time period, to provide resources for crime victim compensation and treatment of drug addiction.

Two people are in the Franklin County, Ohio, jail after a police chase which led to the discovery of 10 pounds of methamphetamine. Irene Vanderburg, 23, and Paul Lindahl, 52, both from Oklahoma City, were each charged with possession of drugs, carrying a concealed weapon and failure to comply. Ohio State troopers stopped the car with Oklahoma registration on January 26 for speeding on Interstate 70 in Madison County. After stopping, criminal indicators were observed and the driver was removed from the vehicle. Subsequently, the passenger of the vehicle got into the driver’s seat drove away. Officers had to use stop sticks to stop the car. Troopers searched the car and found 10 pounds of methamphetamine worth $100,000 and a loaded handgun.


FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., has released a statement on the agency’s scientific evidence on the presence of opioid compounds in kratom, underscoring its potential for abuse. The complete statement may be accessed here.


The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched The Cannabis Conversation, an online, anonymous survey that asks people about their marijuana and alcohol use and how they feel about driving while using marijuana. The survey can be found at “We want to find out from marijuana users why they drive high when it’s so dangerous,” said Sam Cole, a transportation department spokesman. In 2016, there were 77 traffic fatalities involving drivers with active THC in their blood, according to CDOT statistics. In Colorado, a driver is presumed impaired when when they have five nanograms or more of Delta 9-THC in their blood, but Colorado police do not use roadside devices to detect marijuana. Arrests are based on observed impairment.

Illinois has initiated a <href="#stream/0">new helpline for opioid addiction and substance abuse. The 24/7 helpline, run by Boston-based company Health Resources in Action, launched in December 2017. It is part of efforts to combat the state’s opioid epidemic. Maria Bruni, who is with the Illinois Department of Human Services, says it is important to have help available outside of regular business hours, and says operators try to direct callers to facilities with immediate openings. Helpline operators coordinate resources to callers based on needs request for extra information. The hope is to eventually roll out a mobile app with similar services.

The Hungry Heart is a documentary film which provides an intimate look at prescription drug addiction through the world of Vermont pediatrician Fred Holmes who works with patients struggling with this disease. Dr. Holmes prescribes suboxone to his patients struggling with prescription drug addiction. Much like methadone, suboxone helps many addicts in their recovery process– for some, taking suboxone is a crucial stepping stone to long term recovery for others it is a crutch and, for others, suboxone is abused and diverted onto the street. Through the film, viewers see Dr. Holmes struggling with these challenges and trying to make sense and keep the faith in the midst of many contradictions. The film also discusses the healing power of conversation.

Providence became the first Rhode Island city to offer "Safe Stations" at all 12 fire houses. The program is modeled on an effort already in place in Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire. People battling an opioid addiction can go to a fire station at any time, where firefighters will conduct a medical evaluation before connecting them to The Providence Center's Anchor Recovery program. The Providence Journal reports officials estimate the city will see up to four people a day seeking treatment. The program has secured $300,000 through state and federal grants.

Joanne Thomka is the Editor of Substance Abuse News and may be reached at 202-326-6269. Substance Abuse News is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail

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