Opioids in Acadiana
By Julie Hasling
There’s a scene from the movie, Men in Black, where the coroner is examining a corpse, presses the earlobe and the entire face opens up. Inside, where the brain should be, is a little green creature at the controls. This is probably the best description of addiction. Something has taken complete control of the host’s thoughts and actions. And for the host, living this way is at best torturous and extremely painful on every level. How would I know? Twenty-two years ago, I was one of them.
In 2016, there were 64,000 opioid deaths in the U.S. amounting to 174 deaths per day and 7 deaths every hour. (Centers for Disease Control)
Closer to home
Along with the rest of the nation, Louisiana has been hit hard by this epidemic as opioid overdose deaths outnumbered homicides for the first time in 2016. According to the CDC, Louisiana is one of six states that have more written pain-killer prescriptions than residents and is listed in the top 10 states for the fastest growing narcotic related deaths. In 2016, 13 people died from overdosing on fentanyl in Lafayette Parish.
As narcotics continue to be over-prescribed, more and more people are becoming addicted to them. There are currently 2.5M opioid abusers in the U.S. The situation goes from bad to worse when the patient’s prescription is cut off and they turn to heroin, a more readily available and cheaper alternative. According to the CDC, 80 percent of heroin abusers began with prescription pain-killers.
One of the main reasons why opioid deaths have escalated in recent years is due to fentanyl—a synthetic opiate that can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin to boost its potency but users often overdose because they are unaware that the heroin they are taking is laced with this deadly substance.
Opioid deaths are preventable with basic life support and the timely administration of naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and prevents death. But naloxone alone is not a cure-all. While it can immediately save lives, the antidote provides no extended treatment benefits which is necessary for recovery.
Although we have made great strides in combating the opioid epidemic on our country, there’s still more we can do…
• Pray. Ask the Lord for His compassion and direction. Compassion moves us from by-stander into rescue mode.
• Educate ourselves (and others) about the crisis and look for ways to help. Be aware of the symptoms of addiction and realize there are addicts and alcoholics among us. One in ten adults are struggling with some sort of addiction but don’t know what to do about it.
• Keep a current list of emergency numbers, drug abuse counselors, and treatment centers in our area where we can direct people who need assistance.
• Practice tough love and don’t contribute to the problem by supporting addictive behavior or ignoring the problem. Addiction is progressive and most people need help to stop—let’s help them stop!
• Offer and/or support faith-based solutions such as Celebrate Recovery and Teen Challenge programs.
• The Health and Human Services website (HHS.gov) provides a practical toolkit to help faith and community leaders bring hope and healing to their communities.
In spite of the staggering number of opioid abusers and overdose deaths, there is hope in Jesus! And Jesus, in turn, gave His Church the power to annihilate the little green creature illegally occupying space in victim’s heads. Luke 9:1 (NLT) says, “One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.”
As Christians, we should care about the state of our neighbors. Remember the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37? Though he was not a paramedic or professional counselor, it didn’t prevent him from tending to the injured man on the side of the road. Perhaps this story is for such a time as this. A generation of people are literally dying from a preventable and treatable condition. Let’s not look the other way, but stop and render aid!