On August 31st, Arapahoe County and the Tri-County Health Department participated in supporting International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). The theme was “A Time to Remember, Time to Act,” drawing attention to those whose lives are lost to addiction to prescription pain killing drugs and the impact those losses have on grieving families.
In the last three decades, addiction to prescription pain killing drugs has become a serious medical crisis leading to the premature death of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. In Arapahoe County last year nearly 500 residents died of overdose of pain killing drugs.
For the last seven years, Arapahoe County has led the state in advocating for new policies to begin to address the growing threat that these deadly prescription drugs were having in society. The County organized a prescription drug task-force which included the county sheriff, coroner, and Tri-County Health department to determine how best to reduce the drug overdose deaths, improve access to credible drug treatment programs and improve law enforcement programs to eliminate the increasing black market in prescription pain killing drugs.
The task-force recommendations led to an improved state funding for drug treatment clinics, improved monitoring program to find individuals who are unlawfully seeking prescriptions fraudulently, and public education.
Other positive news about the war on prescription opioids is that many counties and cities, including Arapahoe County, have filed suit against big drug manufacturers charging that they marketed drugs like Oxycontin as safe and non-addictive.
Last week a judge in Oklahoma ruled that Johnson & Johnson Corporation had intentionally played down the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids and ordered it to pay the state $572 million in the first trial of a drug manufacturer for the destruction wrought by prescription painkillers. In addition, several drug manufacturers are currently negotiating cash settlements with many plaintiffs rather than fighting in the courts.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office has equipped all deputies with Narcan kits to treat overdose victims. Many lives have already been saved by the use of Narcan.
While these collaborative efforts are encouraging, the battle to end the scourge of deadly addiction must continue to help reduce the deaths and save the lives of those addicted to these drugs.
Drug addiction cut across all levels of society, genders and ethnic backgrounds. The recent death of L.A. Angles pitcher, Tyler Skaggs, is only one example the tragic impact of a prescribed pain killing drug can lead an addiction and ultimately death.
We all can play a role in educating our elected officials, the medical community and our families on the dangers of prescription pain killing drugs. The need for more treatment centers, drug counselors and public awareness is the only course to finding lasting solutions to the devastating crisis of drug addiction and its terrible consequences.
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