Jefferson County Public Health hosted an End Overdose Jeffco event on Aug. 29. The event featured keynote speakers, resources, the Office of Behavioral Health’s Opioid Memorial Wall and a …
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Jefferson County Public Health hosted an End Overdose Jeffco event on Aug. 29. The event featured keynote speakers, resources, the Office of Behavioral Health’s Opioid Memorial Wall and a presentation by a public health nurse, Chris Hammond, on overdose response and prevention training.
Fast facts on the opioid crisis
As defined by Lift The Label, a public awareness campaign on opioid addiction developed by the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health, “opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, and reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain.”
Prescription opioids can be prescribed by a doctor to treat or relieve pain following an injury or surgery, or for certain chronic health conditions. However, they are highly addictive and “someone can become dependent on opioids within seven days of use,” states Lift The Label.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment states that nearly 224,000 Coloradans misuse prescription drugs each year.
Treatment for opioid addiction is available. Medication-assisted treatment has a success rate of 60-to-90 percent, according to Lift The Label. Known by the acronym MAT, it combines long-term behavioral therapy and counseling with FDA- approved medications “to provide a `whole-patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.”
There are 22 opioid treatment programs that offer MAT in Colorado.
People dependent on opioids can overdose, which can be fatal. According to the World Health Organization, about 45 percent of drug users experience a nonfatal overdose and about 70 percent of people who are dependent on opioids, or knows someone who is, witnesses an overdose in their lifetime.
The World Health Organization “recommends that naloxone be made available to people likely to witness an opioid overdose, as well as training in the management of opioid overdose.”
Naloxone is medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It works by restoring normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of an opioid overdose.
Administering naloxone to someone suffering overdose of opioids is protected under Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law. There are three FDA-approved formulations of naloxone and more than 200 pharmacies in Colorado carry naloxone.
Words from the experts…
“Substance abuse is a complex issue. We need to treat drug-related harm as a public health issue and invest in proven practices that can save lives. To help individuals struggling with addiction, it requires collaboration from community partners and those with a lived experience.” — Jeff Hanley, the opioid initiatives program coordinator at Jefferson County Public Health.
“I didn’t have anything to live for because I didn’t have my kids anymore. Now in recovery, I am able to be present in their lives and share my story with others to help them,” recover from addiction. — Vanessa Laing of Lakewood. Laing, 39, used meth for 11 years and has been in recovery for four years.
“It’s incredibly powerful and rewarding to see the transformation in a person. They go from being fragile in their early stages in recovery to becoming a strong contributor to society and mentor to others.” — Butch Lewis the executive director of David’s House, which provides sober living/recovery housing.
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