what are the solutions to drug the overdose crisis

dr Mysheika Roberts is health commissioner of Columbus Public Health.

Columbus Public Health joins our community in recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day and honoring the hundreds of thousands of lives lost.

While COVID-19 has been difficult on all of us, it has been particularly hard – and deadly – on those fighting the disease of addiction or those unconsciously self-medicating or experimenting with drugs, which are unknowingly laced with deadly fentanyl.

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According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US in 2021 — more than any other year on record.

Ohio’s drug overdose death rate was fourth-highest in the nation in 2020, per the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data.

And in 2021, 788 Franklin County residents died from an overdose. Of those deaths, 89% were due to fentanyl, which unknowingly and silently kills people.

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On the surface, these statistics seem cold – and they don’t truly represent the lives behind them. These are our sons and daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers. These are real people with loved ones, bright futures and promising lives cut short.

Sadly, these tragic deaths do not tell the whole story.

Another 5,703 Franklin County residents also overdosed in our community last year. And these are the people we know about from EMS reports. The numbers are likely much higher, as many people do not call EMS when an overdose occurs and Narcan saves someone’s life.

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Overdoses affect our entire community in broad and devastating ways.

I’ve talked to parents who have lost their once-vibrant children, service providers who don’t have enough resources to serve everyone who needs it, business leaders whose workplaces are impacted by those addicted and their loved ones, and hospital leaders with emergency rooms that are overflowing with people from all walks of life who have overdosed.

Columbus firefighter Don Penrod sets up in a parking lot of Speedway on West Broad St. west of I-270 in preparation for passing out Narcan nasal spray kits in May 2020. The kits can help avert fatal overdoses.

Their stories could be our stories. Their problems are our problems. None of us are immune. And it takes our entire community working together to address this crisis.

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As we remember those we’ve lost, we must all commit to reducing stigma and ending overdose deaths. While there are no quick or easy fixes, the first step is to move beyond the tough love approach, stigma, judgment and shame. While it’s often easier to point fingers and blame those in the powerful grip of addiction, it’s important to remember that addiction is not a disease of character. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that causes daily battles that most of us will never truly comprehend.

The good news is, overdose deaths are preventable and we are determined to make a difference. Our community partners are at the table and we are working to address this crisis together through the Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan.

Test strips can determine whether street drugs contain fentanyl.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, fentanyl is the most deadly drug in America.

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We have developed a coordinated community response to save lives through education, engagement, intervention, and Narcan and fentanyl test strip distribution. Our efforts on International Overdose Awareness Day may be the most visible, but this critical work is ongoing 24/7, 365 days a year. We are committed and doing everything we can to save lives.

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But we can’t do it alone. We have a shared obligation to finding long-term solutions that make it possible for people to survive. It’s the right thing to do – and it’s critical to the health and safety of our community.

I thank our partners on the Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan and all others who have already joined us in the fight. I also encourage you to think about what you can do to help. We all have an obligation, a responsibility and a role to play. I urge you to join us so that we can save lives in our community.

dr Mysheika Roberts is health commissioner of Columbus Public Health.

Source: https://www.dispatch.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2022/08/29/mysheika-roberts-what-are-the-solutions-to-drug-overdose-crisis-columbus-ohio-opioids-fentanyl/65416993007/

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