Did you know that opioid and heroin drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in this country? According to the experts, approximately 80% of heroin use started with legitimately prescribed opioid medication. The typical user is young, white, and lives in a suburb. Women have been particularly impacted. Their overdose-related deaths increased 400%, as compared to 237% for men, between 1999 and 2010.
How did this happen? Opioids were typically only prescribed to combat pain for terminal patients during most of the 20th century, due to concerns about addiction. However, beginning in 1986, doctors started championing these drugs for other diagnoses, stating that research showed there was little risk. By the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment had a laser focus on minimizing pain at all costs. Within 10 years, sales of prescription pain relievers increased fourfold. The danger of prescription drug misuse and addiction was not addressed in medical school. Patients started coming to the emergency rooms asking for specific opioid pain medications…and doctors went to jail for manslaughter. The problem became pretty obvious.
Narcan, a nasal spray, and naloxone, an injectable, are antidotes that can reverse the life-threatening effects of an overdose. Opioids can depress the central nervous system and the respiratory system; administering Narcan allows the person to breath normally. Howard County and most counties in Maryland offer free trainings on how to administer these life-saving treatments. If you are interested in learning more, contact HC DrugFree because they guided me to the closest free training.