Editorials

Opioid epidemic has new enemy

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

"As bad as people think the problem of opioid use is, it's probably worse," said Wayne Ray, the lead author and a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University's medical school.
"As bad as people think the problem of opioid use is, it's probably worse," said Wayne Ray, the lead author and a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University's medical school. AP

Opioid abuse isn’t what you think.

It’s not just scenes from Trainspotting or scenarios where a bone-skinny man sneaks into a hospital to steal morphine. It is also Americans who open their parents’ or a friend’s medicine cabinets and take prescription drugs indiscriminately.

Prescription opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, Demerol and Vicodin are readily prescribed and forgotten in medicine cabinets around the country.

“In 2014, nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioid pain relievers,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prescription opioid abuse tends to lead to heroin use.

Drug overdose is the No. 1 cause of accidental death in the U.S., the American Society of Addiction Medicine says.

Opioid overdose has the majority, with almost 19,000 deaths out of the 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014.

The CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services are aptly calling the record-high numbers an epidemic.

Since 1999, the number of opioid-related deaths nearly quadrupled, the CDC says.

Overdose deaths hit a record in 2014, HHS says, and 2015 will most likely break that record.

The anti-overdose drug naloxone could lower the 2016 numbers, especially in Texas.

Naloxone reverses opiate effects on the body.

It is used in surgeries, with newborns born with opioid in their systems and as an anti-overdose medication.

Senate Bill 1462, which passed last year, allows emergency services personnel to administer naloxone as treatment for a suspected opioid overdose and authorizes access to the medication even without a prescription.

Now, naloxone will be available over the counter in all Walgreens in Texas.

Though Texas has a low drug overdose rate, 4 of the top 25 cities with opioid abuse are in the state.

Last year, Tarrant County had 177 drug-related accidental deaths.

“At highest risk are the elderly and medically ill who are already medically compromised,” wrote Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, in SB1462’s Statement of Intent.

Having naloxone widely available will save lives.

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