More than 60,000 pouches designed to safely deactivate and dispose of prescription drugs were distributed across Southern Nevada earlier this month. These easy-to-use packages allow users to quickly deactivate their unwanted medications with water and charcoal inside the pouch, which can then be safely discarded in household trash.
Ridding homes of unwanted or unused opiate prescription drugs may help to limit the number of overdose deaths that occur due to opiate use. An estimated 61 percent of overdose deaths in 2014 were caused by the use of opiate drugs – many of which were prescription painkillers. Experts believe that, for some, abuse of opiate medications left in the home may lead to addiction to these drugs and/or lead to an acute overdose when the medications are improperly used or mixed with other addictive substances.
State Senator Patricia Farley says that the problem of opiate overdose is one that impacts everyone across the state, even if only in the form of increased healthcare costs.
In many homes, the problem begins in the medicine cabinet, according to Assemblyman Nelson Araujo. He said: “Where are our youth getting their prescription drugs from? Frankly I think the answer for many of them — potentially — can be that they’re getting them from their parents’ medicine cabinet.
It’s about prevention, it’s about making sure that we make an extended effort to tackle this growing epidemic of opioid addiction and that we start here in our state.”
Open distribution of these painkiller disposal packages is a good way to make some headway against the problem of opiate abuse and addiction, but it is one step in many that is necessary to truly combat the problem comprehensively.
Community-Wide Awareness and Intervention
Increased awareness is an important part of the puzzle when it comes to combatting overdose deaths due to opiate use. Improved prevention efforts in schools as well as at community events can help to:
- Limit the number of new cases of drug abuse among young people
- Decrease the rate of new prescriptions for opiate drugs among patients seeking pain management
- Limit the dose of addictive opiate painkillers that patients require for pain management
- Increase the awareness of adults in the home about what is happening to leftover medications in the house that could potentially be abused
Naloxone and Overdose
Naloxone is a medication that can help to stop an opiate overdose from becoming fatal – as long as it is administered in time. As stories about the high rates of opiate overdose across the country are increasingly in the news, it is becoming more and more apparent that naloxone is a much-needed antidote. Many communities are working to make sure that the drug is in the hands of all first responders, including law enforcement and firefighters. They are also helping to increase access to naloxone for family members of people who are living with an active opiate addiction. The more that key people have the drug in hand in the moment of crisis, the more often an opiate overdose can become a gateway to a new life in recovery rather than a dead end.
Increased Access to Treatment
As more and more families are negatively impacted by opiate abuse and addiction, the demand for simpler access to treatment services is rising. Voters are making it clear to state legislatures that the problem can no longer be ignored and asking for:
- Increased funds for more treatment programs and more beds in those programs
- Changes to the insurance industry that push insurance companies to more readily pay for claims for addiction treatment
- Changes to laws that stigmatize people who are struggling with addiction (e.g., decriminalization of possession of certain substances)
- Increased community support options for people hoping to stabilize in recovery
How Will You Positively Impact the Problem of Opiate Use and Abuse in 2017?
You can help to create positive change across Nevada in a number of different ways in the new year. If someone you love is struggling with addiction, you can help them to connect with treatment services so they can begin the healing process.
If you are in recovery, you can share your story in a number of different ways, giving back to the community and helping to have a positive impact on the people around you. If you are currently living with an addiction and not sure where to turn, contact us at Desert Hope to learn more about your treatment options and how you can begin your own journey to recovery today.