ThedaCare Health Matters

Fighting Opioid abuse is critical

Green Lake County is holding a heroin summit in April to inform the community and make people aware of the opiate crisis in our country and locally. Heroin, which is an illegal opiate drug, along with legal opiates prescribed for pain are being misused and abused, creating a huge problem.  

The statistics on opiate use is staggering. Millions of people are using legal and illegal opiates in the U.S. every day. In 2016, there were more than 42,000 deaths due to opioid overdose. This is the highest ever recorded. That is about 115 deaths per day. About two-thirds of drug overdose deaths are due to opiates and, of those, 40 percent are prescription drugs. 

From a healthcare perspective, this is very frustrating since these deaths are preventable. Opiate drugs are highly addictive. The addiction drives people to seek the drug. Once an individual starts to use an opiate, the cravings can be overpowering and the focus of their life is to obtain more of the drug. 

Addicts develop de-pendence because they suffer symptoms of withdrawal if they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms include increased perception of pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, anxiousness, restlessness, insomnia and watery eyes.  People do not die of withdrawal from opiates though they feel like they will.

Opiate deaths occur because of the respiratory depression caused by the drug. Simply put, people stop breathing. This is more likely to occur if the drug is combined with other substances that depress the central nervous system like alcohol, sedatives or sleeping pills.     Heroin is especially dangerous because the dose of the drug is uncertain. It is illegal and the drug purity can vary depending on the supplier. Heroin can be taken by an intravenous injection, smoked or snorted. Any of these methods get the drug into the system rapidly. Intravenous is the most rapid and most dangerous.

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