By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
International Overdose Awareness Day will be recognized on Wednesday, August 31. The worldwide event was established in 2001 as a time to raise awareness of prescription misuse and reduce the stigma of overdose death.
Statistics show that Oklahomans 35 and older have some of the highest death rates from prescription overdose in the nation.
According to the Oklahoma Health Department prescription drug overdoses kill nearly two Oklahomans per day. There are more unintentional poisonings involving prescription pain killers than alcohol and illicit drugs combined.
Between 2007-2014, approximately 4,240 unintentional poisonings deaths in Oklahoma involved prescription drugs. Studies show that pain killers (opioids) taken with other medications including anti-anxiety medication, sleep aids and cold medicine can have dangerous results.
Today, members of the community in Oklahoma County who are working to combat the prescription drug epidemic have joined together and created C.A.Rx.E (Coalition Against Rx Epidemic).
This coalition, funded by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), works to bring community awareness to the prescription drug epidemic as well as collaborating to find ways to combat the growing issue of easy access and misuse.
“We recognize this day not only to remember those who have died, but to ask you to join us in our efforts to fight this growing epidemic,” said Laura Brennan, Chair of the Coalition Against Rx Epidemic (C.A.Rx.E) in Oklahoma County. “The simple act of properly disposing of old and unneeded medications is a great starting place.”
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report, ‘Overview of an epidemic’ states, “The United States is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record.”
Overdose Awareness Day also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or now have permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. The event is an opportunity to spread the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
Deaths from drug overdose are up among men and women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages.
On Thursday August 31, a FedUP Youth Rally will be held for Opiod Addiction Awareness at 6 p.m. at John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N. Kelley Avenue, in Oklahoma City. Information will be distributed about the opiod crisis through pamphlets, a power-point presentation, and speaker testimonies.
FedUP is a grassroots coalition that seeks action from the federal government to bring an end to the opiod public health crisis. For more details, contact Veola Bray at 405-323-5126 or [email protected]
Former Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Darrell Weaver said, “We believe there’s over 100,000 Oklahomans addicted to prescription drugs… We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem.”
Just this week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a letter, the first of its kind, to doctors and other medical professionals asking for their help to solve Americas’ opioid crisis.
In an interview with The Huffington Post Murthy said, “The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health crises we’re facing, My hope is that we can mobilize clinicians around the country to join the national movement we’re building to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic.”
Those interested in fighting the prescription drug epidemic in Oklahoma County can contact Tanya Henson at [email protected]. For information regarding safe disposal of medications visit www.takeasprescribed.org.
On August 31, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $950,000 in funding to Oklahoma to improve access to treatment for opioid use disorders.
“The epidemic of opioid use disorders involving the non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers and the use of heroin has had a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities across our nation,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto. “These grants will help address the key elements of the opioid crisis by promoting effective prevention efforts, preventing overdose deaths and helping ensure that people with opioid use disorders are able to receive vital treatment and recovery support services.”
The Medication-Assisted Treatment Prescription Drug Opioid Addiction Grants, administered by SAMHSA, will provide up to $11 million to 11 states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services for persons with opioid use disorder.
This program targets states identified as having the highest rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin and prescription opioids per capita, and prioritizes those states with the most dramatic recent increases for heroin and opioids.
Awardees include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Rhode Island.
To learn more about prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma, visit www.TakeAsPrescribed.org.