Special to the Village News
October marks National Substance Use Prevention Month, making it an ideal time to adapt preventative messaging to reach as many people as possible. It is no secret that recreational drug use is unsafe, and more people are becoming addicted to dangerous drugs.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are fueling one of the worst drug problems in the United States. Opioids, primarily fentanyl, are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S.
Prevention and education messaging can have a huge impact and save lives. Local drug education campaigns in California and reliable information about opioids can help communities and individuals avoid the dangers of opioids.
Most people know by now that the opioid epidemic began with overprescribing prescription pain medications like Oxycontin and its reckless marketing as being safe and effective. Since the early 1990s, it has gone in waves. It began with pain medication, which led to a resurgence of heroin and now illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly worsened the situation, and most states saw a significant uptick in overdose deaths. The border closures and supply chain disruptions meant drug users turned to local suppliers and unknown substances.
Lockdowns and social isolation removed treatment and support options, and as a result, more people were using drugs alone and dying without a chance for early intervention.
In California, the deaths attributed to fentanyl began to rise significantly around 2019. Between September 2021 and September 2022, nearly 6,000 people died after ingesting synthetic opioids. In 2021, more Californians died from a fentanyl overdose than car accidents.
There are critical preventative messages that everyone should know. For instance, fentanyl can be hidden in drugs. Synthetic opioids are increasingly found in counterfeit prescription pain medications sold on social media platforms.
Fentanyl is also found in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. It is nearly impossible to know if any one of these drugs contains fentanyl without using a fentanyl test strip.
Other essential messages should speak about how mixing drugs can cause overdose, especially if that drug contains an unknown amount of fentanyl. Mixing stimulant drugs can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack while mixing opioids with other depressants can drastically slow breathing.
Finally, naloxone saves lives, and anyone in treatment or recovery needs support to help reduce the stigma attached to addiction.
Naloxone is available in all 50 states, and Good Samaritan laws protect those who are overdosing. Many states, however, struggle to provide adequate support in terms of detox and treatment beds. It takes communities rallying together to enact change.
Jody Boulay is a mother of two with a passion for helping others. She currently works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org to help spread awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.