Progress on opioids slow, steady

We are heartened by statistics released last week by American Medical Response that show a positive trend in Nashua’s ongoing battle with fentanyl, heroin and other opioids.

The number of overdoses in the city attributed to opioids through the first half of 2019 was 146. While that is 146 too many, it is also down from the 167 recorded during the same time period in 2018.

Of the 146 overdoses, 15 of them resulted in fatalities. This is down from the 17 fatal opioid overdoses in Nashua during the first six months of 2018.

AMR Regional Director Chris Stawasz told our reporter he believes the increased availability of Narcan is contributing to the decline in deaths. He said with more Narcan available than ever before, it is making a huge difference.

“We’re seeing it used prior to our arrival, much more often than we have in the past,” Stawasz said.

“One person who has a fatal overdose is too many, but it is good news that the overdoses are down, especially the fatalities are down,” Mayor Jim Donchess added.

As we have written before, there is no one reason someone chooses to use opioids in an unauthorized, and therefore dangerous, manner. Some who become addicted to opioids had a legitimate health care problem for which the drugs were prescribed. This could be chronic pain, or severe pain due to injury. Although the injury may eventually heal, the person may get hooked on the drug.

For others, they may try a drug just one time to experience the high. If he or she takes too much of that drug, it can lead to a potentially fatal overdose.

There are also many parties to blame for the opioid epidemic. Certainly, some of the blame lies with pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Some of the blame should be placed on doctors, who are sometimes too eager to prescribe hazardous opioids for pain.

Some of the problem is with society, as a whole. When person feels incomplete or as though they don’t “fit in,” they are more susceptible to drug addiction.

Also, some of the liability lies with the individual. Even if one becomes addicted, there is no shortage of help or treatment options. This is particularly true in Nashua because of the Safe Stations program.

“Unfortunately, we still continue to see the overdoses. We’re not out of it, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be out of it in the near future,” Stawasz said of the epidemic. “We’re continuing to make headway, which is good news.”

We concur with Stawasz. Any amount of progress in the struggle with the scourge of opioid addiction must be seen as a victory.