The Clay County Health Department and Prestera Mental Health Services are working to bring local citizens together to raise awareness of the heroin and prescription painkiller crisis in our neighborhoods and create a safer, healthier, drug-free community.
Heroin and prescription painkillers are part of an incredibly addictive class of drugs called “opioids.” Many people who abuse prescription pain medications have found these drugs increasingly expensive and harder to obtain following legislation and increased regulations. As a result, heroin (part of the same drug family) has made a rapid comeback in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 80 percent of people who use heroin had previously abused prescription painkillers, and the number of reported heroin users has grown from 373,000 to 669,000 between 2007 and 2012, and even more since then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described the problem as a “growing, deadly epidemic.”
In addition to increased tolerance and withdrawal, use of these drugs can lead to overdose. Long-term users are also in danger of contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B and C from shared needles. This increases the risk of heart and lung problems, collapsed veins and blood infections, malnutrition and poor hygiene, and risk of stillbirth or birth defects among pregnant women.
Many people begin abusing prescription painkillers following a serious injury or surgery. After developing tolerance, the pain and discomfort of withdrawal leads them to seek more of it or to transition to heroin once the pills are unavailable. Many young people begin abusing prescription painkillers under the misconception that it’s a “safe” way to get high. Some start using heroin because it seems glamorous or rebellious, or because they simply want to “check out” and avoid difficult feelings or emotions.
To address this issue effectively, communities throughout the United States need to get involved. Please consider attending the town hall meeting on May 24, 2016 at 5:30pm. The meeting should last roughly 1 ½ hours.
April Taylor, LPN
Clay County Health Department