In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day shines light on an epi­demic

The Avenue News - - EDITORIAL - By NI­COLE RODMAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

Last Fri­day, Aug. 31, marked In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day.

Events like Over­dose Aware­ness Day pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to stop, re­mem­ber and seek a way for­ward.

Es­tab­lished in 2001 in Mel­bourne, Australia, the aim of the com­mem­o­ra­tion is two-fold. First, the day is a chance to re­mem­ber loved ones lost to over­dose death. It is also a chance to raise aware­ness of over­dose death and a call to ac­tion to pre­vent such tragedies from oc­cur­ring.

The day marks the start of Na­tional Re­cover y Month, which seeks to raise aware­ness of sub­stance abuse, lessen stigma and pro­vide re­sources for re­cov­ery.

“In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day is a global event which high­lights the im­pact of over­dose and the stigma that overshadows drug-re­lated deaths,” Mary­land Depart­ment of Health Sec­re­tary Robert R. Neall said in a state­ment.

He con­tin­ued, “Mary­land has made strong in­roads in as­sist­ing those strug­gling with sub­stance use dis­or­ders by ex­pand­ing ac­cess to treat­ment and re­cov­ery ser­vices, but there is still more work to be done. If you or a fam­ily mem­ber are strug­gling with an ad­dic­tion, help is avail­able 24/7 through our state’s cri­sis hot­line — call 211, press 1.”

Here in Mary­land and across the coun­try, we con­tinue to grap­ple with an opi­oid epi­demic that claims an in­creas­ing num­ber of lives each year.

Ear­lier this year, my fam­ily suf­fered such a loss. The toll that over­dose death takes on a fam­ily is dev­as­tat­ing and life-long.

In 2017, there were 2,282 drug and al­co­hol-re­lated in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths in the state, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased in July by the Mary­land Depart­ment of Health. Of that num­ber, 2,009 of those deaths were re­lated to opi­oid use.

Deaths re­lated to pow­er­ful opi­oid fen­tanyl have con­tin­ued to climb — from 1,119 in 2016 to 1,594 in 2017.

Heroin and pre­scrip­tion dru­gre­lated deaths dipped slightly be­tween 2016 and 2017.

Co­caine-re­lated deaths in­creased from 464 in 2016 to 691 in 2017, likely due to an in­crease in cases of fen­tanyl be­ing mixed with co­caine. Of the co­caine-re­lated deaths that oc­curred last year, two-thirds also in­volved fen­tanyl.

Fen­tanyl is also be­ing com­bined with heroin, caus­ing a spike in over­dose deaths last year and the first quar­ter of 2018.

Deaths re­lated to pre­scrip­tion drug abuse re­mained rel­a­tively the same be­tween 2016 and 2017 — from 418 to 413. Pre­scrip­tion dru­gre­lated deaths in the first quar­ter of 2018 were at 104.

Pre­lim­i­nary data col­lected in the first three months of 2018 show 653 un­in­ten­tional drug and al­co­hol in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths in Mary­land. Of these, 579 were opi­oid re­lated; 500 of the deaths in­volved fen­tanyl. My de­ceased fam­ily mem­ber is among this num­ber.

“While Mary­land is start­ing to see a de­cline in heroin-re­lated deaths, fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths con­tinue to rise in stag­ger­ing num­bers,” said Mary­land Depart­ment of Health Sec­re­tary Robert R. Neall.

He added, “In the first three months of 2018 alone, we’ve seen 500 fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths. We’re ask­ing those with a sub­stance use dis­or­der to im­me­di­ately seek treat­ment and for more in­di­vid­u­als to learn how to use and carry nalox­one.” To that end, across the state, ju­ris­dic­tions are hold­ing nalox­one train­ings — of­fer­ing ex­panded ac­cess to the drug that can re­verse an opi­oid over­dose.

As of June 1, 2017, the state Depart­ment of Health is­sued an or­der al­low phar­ma­cies and hos­pi­tals to is­sue nalox­one to any­one who may need it — whether they are at risk of an over­dose or know some­one who may be.

Pre­vi­ously, nalox­one could only be given to per­sons trained through the Over­dose Re­sponse Pro­gram. The new 2017 or­der makes the life­sav­ing drug avail­able to any­one, re­gard­less of train­ing.

For more in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing ac­cess to a cri­sis hot­line, treat­ment re­sources, coun­sel­ing, in­for­ma­tion and more, visit be­for­e­it­stoolate. mary­land.gov or call 211 and press op­tion 1.

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