Working to Prevent Opioid Overdoses in Montgomery County
Opioids are powerful pain reducing drugs; including prescribed pain medication such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. However, some illicit drugs, such as heroin, are considered an opioid. Physicians typically prescribe opioids to treat temporary pain, but regular use can lead to dependence and addiction. Opioid misuse can lead to overdose and death, although this is especially common in people with an opioid dependency. What most opioid users may not realize is that opioid misuse can cause long-term brain damage; therefore, opioid use disorder (OUD) is now considered a chronic disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Across North Carolina, the numbers of fentanyl and heroin overdoses continue to increase. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used for treating severe pain in hospitals, is now being found frequently in many illicit drugs purchased on the streets. Due to this increased presence, fentanyl has been identified as a cause of increased opioid-related deaths in recent years. Unintended fentanyl consumption has now made its way to Montgomery County as well.
In addition to fentanyl, use of opioids such as heroin and methamphetamine has increased in Montgomery County since the passing of the STOP ACT. This legislation limited the amount of opioids medical providers were allowed to prescribe at one time. Heroin and methamphetamine are cheaper and easier to find on the streets than prescription opioids. Consequently, a large number of prescription opioid users have now begun using illicit drugs.
Montgomery County has been no exception to the opioid epidemic currently affecting the U.S. According to NC DETECT, a public health data tracking tool which tracks emergency department visits, there were five cases of medication or drug overdose last month in Montgomery County and 1 opioid overdose. However, these numbers are likely under reported because of the illegal nature of misusing opioids. Therefore, many people could be hesitant to bring their friend or family member to the emergency department when they are experiencing drug overdose symptoms.
The Montgomery County Department of Health encourages the community to learn the symptoms of an overdose. A person who has overdosed may be pale or be sweaty to the touch, have a limp body, and have blue, purple, or grayish fingernails, lips, and or skin. They may be unable to speak, or awaken, be vomiting, or may be making gurgling noises, and could have slowed or stopped breathing. If you cannot tell, assume it is in fact an overdose – and take action. When in doubt, reach out!
It is essential that everyone knows that an opioid overdose is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone is overdosing, 911 immediately! If you have naloxone, administer it according to the directions. Naloxone is a life saving medication that can block the effects of opioids and reverse an overdose. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist about a naloxone kit to keep on-hand, just in case if you think you may need it. It may be what saves a life!
The Montgomery County Department of Health recommends talking with your doctor about getting a naloxone kit if you or a loved one is experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD). However, naloxone kits are available from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription. Montgomery County Emergency Services (EMS) also currently has a small amount of naloxone kits on-hand available to anyone who asks for one. For more information on this please contact Mike Dutton with Montgomery County EMS at 910-639-4925. At present, anyone can purchase naloxone without a prescription in Montgomery County at the following locations:
- CVS Pharmacy;
- Cochrane Ridenhour Drug in Mt. Gilead;
- White Star Pharmacy in Troy; and
- Walmart Pharmacy in Biscoe.
All pharmacies in Montgomery County carry naloxone; however, some still require a doctor’s prescription to purchase it.
The Montgomery County Department of Health partnered with First Health of the Carolinas on a Rural Communities Opioid Response Project-implementation grant which covers Montgomery, Moore, Lee, Richmond, and Hoke counties. This grant funded the creation of an opioid treatment and recovery resources website. The website is intended to help link individuals suffering with substance or opioid use disorder with treatment resources in their communities and can be found at www.firsthealth.org/recoveryresources. Overcoming an opioid addiction can take time and professional help. Medication and counseling can improve a person’s chance of success. If a friend or family member is dealing with an opioid addiction, offer to help them find treatment. If cost is a barrier please reach out to your local health department or hospital to inquire about resources which can help with treatment costs.
Together as a community we can fight the war on opioids and prevent overdoses in our county. For more information, please contact Kimberly Burger at the Montgomery County Department of Health at 910-572-1393 ext. 1227.