No matter where you live in the United States, the country’s ongoing opioid crisis is not showing signs of decline. In fact, many state legislators are coming together to find ways to combat this major health crisis. Recently, state legislators in Utah came together for a panel discussion to find ways to overcome the opioid epidemic in Utah.
Held at the University of Utah at the Hinckley Institute of Politics and moderated by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, the discussion on the opioid epidemic in Utah had an urgent tone. After the panel discussion, Cox told reporters that opioid addiction is not only a health issue but also a policymaking and political issue.
According to an article published in The Deseret News, the panel discussion was also attended by Adam Cohen, CEO of the Odyssey House treatment center; Angela Stander, prescription drug overdose prevention coordinator for the state Department of Health, an Jennifer Plumb, who is medical director of the Utah Naloxone Association and also an assistant pediatrics professor at the University of Utah.
What is Being Done to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Utah?
During the recent panel discussion, participants talked about ways state agencies are fighting the opioid epidemic in Utah. For example, Plumb discussed the success of a statewide naloxone distribution program. Sold under the name of Narcan, naloxone is a powerful medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Once administered, overdose victims can be stabilized long enough to receive professional help.
Plumb state that the program has been a tremendous success. While organizations statewide have attempted to get the medication to as many people as possible, naloxone itself is not a cure for opioid addiction:
“We’ve gotten naloxone into thousands of homes across the state … everywhere we can possibly get it to people…(But) you can’t get better if you’re dead. We have to get these people better (with naloxone) so they can get to those next best steps.”
Other panel members praised passage of recent legislation requiring pharmacists statewide to place warning labels on opioid containers stating the drugs carry a risk for addiction and potential overdose. Additionally, panel members discussed the importance of increasing mental health treatment for those struggling with addiction.
The Use of Medical Marijuana in Relation to Utah’s Opioid Addiction Problem
Another major discussion point during the panel discussion was the use of medical marijuana in relation to Utah’s opioid epidemic. Cox stated that medical marijuana has the potential to be an important piece in proactively dealing with the opioid epidemic in Utah:
“I think it is a hugely important issue (regarding) the safety of marijuana and its effectiveness in dealing with pain in a way that does not cause the same addiction, the same — all of the problems we’ve been talking about (with opioids). I think there’s general consensus around that it’s better than opioids, at least we’re getting there.”
Cox stated that he would have liked to have seen medical marijuana legislation already in place. While supportive of such legislation, he is opposed to current initiatives being debated in the state legislature. Currently, proposed initiatives lack safeguards which would decrease the potential of regular recreational use of the drug.
“The problem is I can tell you if this gets on the ballot and the details of this policy really start getting out … a lot of that support is going to go away because it makes it look a little too much like the potential for recreational marijuana down the road.”
The DEA 360 Program
Utah was the first state to adopt an aggressive statewide campaign to address the opioid crisis in the state. The DEA 360 program was designed to coordinate law enforcement, prevention and treatment efforts to curb the opioid epidemic in Utah. The program has three main goals:
- Stopping the deadly cycle of opioid abuse by eliminating drug trafficking organizations and gangs that fuel violence and perpetuates the cycle of addiction in communities.
- Partnering with the medical community and other organizations to raise awareness of the dangers involving opioid use, the misuse of prescription medications and the dangers of opiates such as heroin.
- Help strengthen community organizations that can provide long-term support in building drug-free communities.
According to an article published in the November 7th, 2017 edition of The Deseret News, program includes an “aggressive” 13-week public awareness campaign which included widespread social media presence, community meetings, billboards and a website called wakeuputah.com. The DEA 360 had been implemented in several U.S. cities including St. Louis, Milwaukee, Louisville and Pittsburgh.
Facing the Opioid Problem in Utah Head On
The measures implemented by state and local agencies in Utah to combat the state’s opioid crisis is a move in the right direction. According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), there were 466 opioid-related overdose deaths in the state during 2016. Utah’s rate of 16.4 deaths per 100,000 persons is more than the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons.
Current efforts to address opioid addiction in Utah mirrors efforts across the country. In 2016, more than 63,600 lives were lost to drug overdoses. Two-thirds of those deaths were due to prescription painkiller and heroin overdoses. The continued efforts of state and local organizations must continue to be proactive that address the issues concerning opioid addiction and drug addiction as a whole.
If you, a family member or a loved one is struggling with an opioid addiction, the effects that are felt can be overwhelming and devastating. Breaking the cycle of opioid addiction requires professional intervention. If you are looking for help, call Pinnacle Recovery toll-free right now. Our experienced and compassionate staff will work with you to create a drug treatment program that fits your unique and specific needs.
Don’t let opioid addiction ruin your life and those you love the most. Call Pinnacle Recovery today and break the cycle of opioid addiction once and for all.