In Illinois, 2,278 families lost a loved one due to drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Department of Public Health. Around 80 percent of those deaths were opioid-related fatalities, which is a 44.3 percent increase from 2013.
In response to the opioid crisis, an act was put in place in 2010 that made it legal for nonmedical persons to administer Naloxone, which is a medication that can prevent overdoses from becoming fatal. In 2012, the “Good Samaritan” law was put in place to ensure that the individual who provided the emergency medical care and the person experiencing the overdose are not charged or prosecuted for felony possession (within specified limitations).
The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse established its Drug Overdose Prevention Program that aids communities in getting access to Naloxone and training their citizens to administer it. The successful distribution of this overdose reversal medication has prevented 10,970 opioid overdoses.
Combatting this epidemic is extremely difficult, and the most common outcome of treatment is early relapse. While medication assisted treatment (MAT) can reduce general health care costs and utilization, the drugs used can be just as addicting as opioids like heroin.
Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone, which are all used in MAT, don’t deliver the same effects as that of heroin or other more potent opioid substances, but they pose the same dangerous risks when taken in doses that exceed what was prescribed for treatment.
Medications as such still prove to be extremely valuable in addiction treatment. When taken as prescribed, and under proper supervision, the chances of experiencing an addictive, rapid-onset high, and having negative side effects such as unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are minimized.
In 2015, there were 17 opioid-related deaths in McLean County, and on Nov. 14, the county coroner, community police chiefs, as well as medical and mental health care providers will convene here at Illinois State University to discuss this growing issue. These experts will share their experiences dealing with this crisis and hopefully develop an action plan to be more proactive in ending opioid addiction and overdose.
McLean County currently provides medically monitored detox services for those experiencing withdrawal through Chestnut Health System’s Crisis Stabilization center in Bloomington. According to its website, “detox is overseen by physicians, advanced practice nurses, and 24-hour nursing services are provided.”
Opioid abuse is not exclusive to a specific ethnicity, tax bracket or region. College students and wealthy, middle-aged people alike find themselves wrapped in the throes of addiction. Preventing addiction and overdoses starts with educating our youth and health professionals. We can’t keep losing our friends and family members to senseless drug abuse.
In order to wage war on this epidemic, more insurance companies must treat mental health and addiction services the same as other medical services used in life-threatening situations, access to MAT must be expanded, overprescription of opioids must be addressed and prevention efforts must be carried out.