The Opioid Awareness Task Force, a sub-committee of the Worcester County Drug and Alcohol Council, is launching a public awareness campaign about opioid misuse and abuse. Opioids, which include both certain legal prescription medications as well as the heroin, have become a rising concern in Worcester and across the state. Instances of misuse or illicit use of the substance has climbed in recent years as have overdose deaths related to opioids.
Focusing on preventative efforts, the goal of the task force is to reduce the instances of opioids abuse and misuse through educational outreach targeting youth as well as parents. Inside of the task force, a social marketing team has been meeting regularly to develop this awareness campaign that will serve as an umbrella for messaging across traditional and social media.
Most opioid abusers don’t begin with heroin and instead start by misusing prescription opioids like painkillers which may only require a trip to the family medicine cabinet. It is vital for parents and guardians to realize that even if their doctor prescribed it, an opioid can be dangerous and addictive if misused.
Medicine cabinets need to be monitored and expired prescriptions disposed of safely. There are three medicine drop-boxes across Worcester at both the northern and southern ends of the county.
Opioids are powerful drugs.
Opioids are drugs that slow down the actions of the body, such as breathing and heartbeat. Opioids also affect the brain to increase pleasant feelings.
People take opioids for medical reasons.
Doctors prescribe opioid medication to treat pain and sometimes for other health problems such as severe coughing. The medication comes in a pill, a liquid, or a wafer. It also comes in a patch worn on the skin.
Examples of prescribed opioid medications include:
• Codeine—an ingredient in some cough syrups and in one Tylenol® product
• Hydrocodone—Vicodin®, Lortab®, or Lorcet®
• Oxycodone—Percocet®, OxyContin®, or Percodan®
• Hydromorphone—Dilaudid® • Morphine—MSContin®, MSIR®, Avinza®, or Kadian®
• Propoxyphene—Darvocet® or Darvon®
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. Impure heroin is usually dissolved, diluted, and injected into the veins, muscles, or under the skin. A nationwide survey indicates that heroin users are attracted to the drug not only for the “high” but because it is less expensive and easier to get than prescription painkillers.
The Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) showed that 7.4-percent of 12th graders in Worcester County had used heroin. In appealing to youth, the task force will emphasize the loss of decision making that comes with dependence and the ease of slipping into addiction. Lives are being lost every year, often in their prime, due to a lack of understanding of the problem. In 2014 alone there were 14 accidental overdose deaths in Worcester County, up from 6 the year before. Heroin and prescription opioids make up the majority of those deaths across the state as of 2014.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that can be used to save a life in the event of an opiate overdose. The Health Department offers Naloxone trainings for friends, family members and anyone that might come in contact with an opioid abuser. For more information on trainings call 410-632-1100.