Mark Scott: Opiod problem is HERE
Published 3:11 pm Monday, April 9, 2018
There has been a lot of attention in the news lately about the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States and here in the State of Georgia. Both the Georgia House and Senate have had discussions this legislative session about what changes need to be made to Georgia laws to help curtail the problem.
The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police has made addressing the opioid epidemic one of its’ top goals for this year. If you are a news hound like me, you can’t help but be aware that we have a nationwide problem on our hands, but thank goodness we don’t have those kinds of problems here in Americus, right? Wrong!
Georgia currently ranks 11th in the United States with the most prescription opioid overdoses. Recent statistics from the Georgia Department of Public Health show that deaths related to drug overdoses have tripled since 1999, and are now nearly equal to that of motor vehicle deaths in the state of Georgia. That’s a very alarming statistic.
Statistics show that 80 percent of heroin users began by abusing prescription opioids. Those most at risk of trying heroin are people who are taking large amounts of pain relievers, those with a history of drug abuse, and those diagnosed with a mental illness.
To help increase the chances of survival for those in our community who are experiencing a life-threatening overdose, all patrol officers for the Americus Police Department, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and Georgia Southwestern State University Police Department now carry Naloxone in their patrol vehicles. This is a medication which helps to counteract the deadly effects of an opioid overdose and can be administered by anyone without fear of harming the patient. It is available at most pharmacies without a prescription. The medication was administered to over 100 patients in Sumter County last year.
What can we, as a community, do to stop this epidemic? The first step is education. We must acknowledge that the problem exists before we can take steps to solve the problem. Georgia has a Good Samaritan Law, also known as the 911 Medical Amnesty Law. This law protects people who call for help in a medical emergency from being prosecuted for a small possession of drugs, alcohol or drug paraphernalia if it is evident that they were seeking medical assistance. The law also gives more access to Naloxone to the general public.
A tangible step that people can take is to clean out their medicine cabinets and dispose of all prescription drugs that are expired or that they no longer need. These prescriptions can be brought to the police department and dropped anonymously in a disposal bin with no questions asked. We have found that many of our young people who are caught with prescription drugs got them out of their parents’ and grandparents’ bathrooms.
There are a number of educational resources available to help combat opioid abuse in Georgia. Visit www.doseofrealityga.org or www.georgiaoverdoseprevention.org to find out more. If you are struggling with an addiction and need help, call the Georgia Crisis & Access Line at 1-800-715-4225. Help is available 24 hours a day.
Mark Scott is chief, Americus Police Department.