Opioid epidemic discussed

Published 12:06 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Piedmont Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (PAPSA) team was the guest of Bacon District Supervisor Kay Pierantoni at the most recent Bacon District Community meeting. The meetings, which Pierantoni began, are held monthly at Bacon district firehouse.

PAPSA sponsored a presentation centered on the severity of the widespread opioid epidemic currently gripping the United States.

PAPSA is a coalition created within the Piedmont Health District of the Virginia Department of Health. The presentation, entitled “Are You Ready to Combat the Drug Epidemic in Your Community,” was developed and delivered by Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Robert Nash. The goal, Dr. Nash explained, is to increase local resident’s awareness of the magnitude of the drug epidemic, not just in the broad scope terms used regarding the United States, but a more focused look at the prevalence of widespread substance abuse within communities and the equally destructive toll it takes on smaller localities.

Dr. Nash, in an effort to illustrate how quickly the nation’s drug abuse death toll has skyrocketed to its current epidemic proportion said, “ To put it into perspective, there were approximately 286,000 casualties during the Vietnam War. Vietnam lasted right at 20 years. Just last year alone, there were about 73,000 deaths reported due to drug abuse.”

“More people are dying from drug overdoses than from cancer, murder, car wrecks; it is a very, very bad situation, and it all began with the introduction and use of Fentanyl,” he concluded.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

Recent numbers released by the CDC not only support Dr. Nash’s comments, they paint an even darker picture of the overall situation.

Unintentional Death, the category in which overdose drug mortality numbers fall under, has risen to rank third among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. Deaths that involve synthetic opioids like Fentanyl have reached a near vertical ascent over the last five years when graphed alongside other opioids.

Dr. Nash and his team explained that one of the most important things citizens can do to help with today’s drug problem is responsibly manage all prescription medications. Keep them locked away when not using. Another important effort is to properly dispose of all drugs not being used.

The ideal method, the PAPSA team urged, is to find the location of a designated, in-store drug collection or ‘drop’ box and deposit all old or unused medications in it.

Installing more drug drop boxes is an urgent issue and holds a high priority among PAPSA’s list of initiatives and is currently being campaigned for with the help of local residents. Each person that attended received a pair of post-paid, pre-addressed postcards that were illustrated to reflect the drop box campaign. The post cards came with a request from the PAPSA team that the cards be mailed as addressed. They would go to the CEO’s of several large area retailers in southwestern Virginia such as Walmart and Kroger, requesting that drop boxes be installed at all of their stores in the region.

Additionally, PAPSA presentation media indicated that only seven of the 167 pharmacies in southwestern Virginia have drop boxes installed. Any of the local law enforcement headquarters in the region are another good place to look for a drop box, although they are not yet installed at every location. Major Royal S. Freeman, of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office was present and indicated that the Charlotte Court House office had installed a drop box.

Another campaign movement aimed at creating a more proactive stance against substance abuse, specifically opioid abuse, is to offer free opioid overdose and naloxone rescue training. Participants will learn key risk factors related to overdoses, how to respond to an overdose and how to administer naloxone. Each person that attends will receive a free dispenser of Narcan nasal spray. This training is being offered by Crossroads Prevention Services. Registration is required. For information about the classes and how to register, contact Nicole at (434) 392- 9461 or nhil@crossroadscsb.org.