Opioid Crisis Becomes National Health Emergency

On Oct. 26, President Donald Trump declared a national public health emergency on opioid use.

According to the New York Times, of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, about one third of them (20,000) are caused by synthetic opioids. Around 68% of the people that overdose on opioids are male and the other 32% are female. The amount of synthetic opioid deaths has not yet reached its peak and is still climbing into 2017. The majority of people who die from opioid overdose are between the ages of 18 and 25.

One of the most used opioids is a drug that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is a schedule II prescription drug that is normally used to treat patients with severe pain or to help deal with surgical pains, according to the National Institute of Health. It can also sometimes be used to treat people with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids.

In 2016, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported on the common ways that people administer Fentanyl. This drug is one of the most addictive opioids because of their extremely high potency.

“When prescribed by a physician, Fentanyl is often administered via injection, transdermal patch, or in lozenges. However, the Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs associated with recent overdoses are produced in clandestine laboratories,” the report revealed. “This non-pharmaceutical Fentanyl is sold in the following forms: as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other, less potent opioids. People can swallow, snort, or inject Fentanyl, or they can put blotter paper in their mouths so that Fentanyl is absorbed through the mucous membrane.”

Opioids affect nerve cells in the body and brain and produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. They can be misused or taken in different ways such as in larger quantities than prescribed or without a doctor’s prescription.

In 2016, overdoses killed more people than guns or car accidents, and 1 in 50 people were killed because of drug related incidences. To help with this crisis, experts stress the importance of having treatment readily available for those who are already addicted.

An opioid overdose can be reversed by the drug Naloxone but only if given right away or within minutes of the overdose. In some regions of the country, opioid availability has decreased. However, since 2007 deaths caused by heroin overdoses have been increasing. Fortunately, there are effective medications that exist today to treat opioid disorders, including Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone. These medications help to treat opioid addictions.

In areas like Baltimore County, police and EMT’s are working with citizens to make sure they call when they suspect someone of an overdose. Many people have been afraid to call 911 when there is a suspected overdose for fear of the police coming and charging them for drugs after they get treated. Baltimore citizens have been told to call 911 for a heart attack instead of an overdose because it allows for an EMT to arrive on the scene with no police.

In Howard County, there is a big push to spread awareness on the amount of opioid overdoses that happen daily and how many of them are fatal. The police department has begun posting the amount of overdoses every day on their Facebook page.

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