CPASA organizes Overdose Awareness Week presentations
PRINCETON — In recognition of the ongoing opioid epidemic that has swept over the country, the week of Aug. 31 was designated as International Overdose Awareness Week.
At Princeton’s Prouty Building on Aug. 29, the Bureau/Putnam County Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) presented a series of informational programs about opioids, their different forms, addiction and overdoses.
“It’s much easier for people to say ‘I have heart disease,’ or ‘I have diabetes,’ than ‘I’m an addict,’ or ‘My son, or daughter, is an addict,’ and then to seek help,” CPASA consultant Terry Madsen said of society’s need to get past the stigma of addiction and treatment.
He added many addictions take hold following legitimate prescription drug use, and that addicts can quickly find themselves using and abusing heroin and other opioids and at risk of an overdose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one person dies every 19 minutes from prescription drug abuse in the United States.
Madsen said 66 percent of the more than 63,000 overdose deaths last year were caused by opioids.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioid overdoses killed 1,946 people in the state in 2016, an increase of 82 percent compared to 2013. In addition, overdose deaths from prescription opioids doubled during that same period, and heroin overdose deaths quadrupled. Deaths from synthetic opioids during that time increased tenfold.
Opioid misuse and overdose deaths are highest among non-Hispanic whites, men ages 20-64, and in poor and rural populations.
In 2015, there were eight overdose deaths in Bureau County, and those numbers have since been in decline.
One of the ways area officials worked to reduce overdose deaths was by ensuring emergency responders were trained in the administration of Narcan and carried it with them. This relatively low-cost opioid antagonist interrupts the opioid compounds in the body, possibly saving the life of an overdosed addict.
“What we didn’t realize until recently was that while overdose deaths in the area have been in decline, the use of Narcan has been increasing,” Madsen said.
He said brown heroin is the most common form found in the Midwest and that it’s increasingly sold in capsules. He also discussed the dangers first responders can face while reviving overdose victims, as well as the possible exposure to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, and even a small amount can prove deadly.
The CDC says the two main groups at risk for prescription drug overdose are the 9 million people who report long-term medical use of opioids, and the roughly 5 million who have used opioids without a prescription or medical need in the past month.
According to the National Safety Council, drug overdose is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in America.
“You can’t be afraid to ask for help,” Dawn Conerton, CPASA coordinator, said.
Conerton also said the form of Narcan that is administered nasally is available without a prescription and over-the-counter by request at Walmart, the only local retailer to do so. She added that other local pharmacies can also provide Narcan, but only with a prescription.
“If you ask your doctor for a Narcan prescription for a family member you’re concerned about, they will provide you with one,” she said.
For more information, visit www.cpasa.org or call 815-872-5091, ext. 224.