War on opioids ongoing

On Jan 7, we acknowledged progress in the continuing battle against fentanyl, heroin and other opioids, as fatalities directly attributed to these drugs in the city of Nashua dropped from 45 in 2017 to 33 in 2018. The main factors in the decline, officials believe are the increased availability of life-saving Narcan and the Nashua Safe Stations program.

The news, however, was somewhat mixed because the number of total opioid overdoses in the city – lethal and non-lethal – grew to 314 in 2018, compared to 302 in 2017.

Now, an Associated Press investigation reveals that some 47,600 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2017. That’s more than died as a result of traffic crashes.

Although overdose deaths get the most attention, that’s not the only way for users to die. People who inject drugs can get heart infections, HIV and hepatitis C. The risk of infection is higher than the chance of dying from an overdose, according to AP.

One of the more common questions regarding opioids is, how do so many get into society?

The AP states much of the heroin sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico, and the drug is more potent than in the 1970s, during a previous crisis. China is the major source of fentanyl.

Public health workers told the AP one major difference between the battle against opioids and the “war on drugs” that took place in the 1980s and 1990s is that addiction is increasingly recognized as a disease of the brain – rather than a moral failing. That could open the way for building an infrastructure for what’s called the “continuum of care” – prevention, treatment and recovery.

For many people, the road back from addiction is a years-long journey, and relapse is common, according to Vermont physician Dr. Deborah Richter.

“They’re not ready unless they can say, ‘I wouldn’t know where to get heroin unless it bit me,'” Richter told the AP.

The opioid crisis may be compared to an octopus because it reaches so many aspects of a community. Therefore, the only way to throw this octopus back out into the sea is for all members of the community to present a united front. This includes federal, state and local government officials, as well as health care professionals, educators and those in law enforcement.