Growing Heroin and Opioid Abuse Epidemic
Opiate and heroin abuse is a deadly, growing epidemic in this country.
It comes just as the federal government is launching a new initiative to curb the opioid crisis that claims tens of thousands of American lives every year.
News 25’s Kristen Durand sat down with some doctors here in South Mississippi who see the effects of these deadly drugs daily.
The images are horrifying: police photos showing the heart wrenching effects of opiate and heroin abuse. Dr. Ben Hudson said, “It’s actually now such a problem that it’s the number one cause of non-accidental death in the United States. Forty-seven thousand overdose deaths in 2014.”
The effects of drug abuse are something physicians and nurses at Ocean Springs Hospital say they see often. Emergency Room Manager Maegan Smathers said, “It’s actually something we see almost every day in the emergency room setting. A lot of these patients that come in, they’re in respiratory distress. Either they can’t breathe or they’re unresponsive.”
Between 2006 and 2014 there were nearly 3,000 overdose deaths in Mississippi. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says prescription opiates and heroin are to blame for most of those deaths.
In 2015, Mississippi had more than 3.2 million opiate prescriptions. Now the Justice Department is launching a new push against doctors who over-prescribe pain killers. Doctors say there’s a fine line between determining who actually needs medication and who is just seeking their next fix, but there are red flags to watch out for. “We can look them up on the prescription monitoring database and see if they’ve gotten narcotic prescriptions from other places. They typically have more than five emergency department visits per year for a pain related complaint,” said Dr. Hudson.
Physicians also say if you need help, seek it, reminding everyone that they’re not here to judge, they’re here to make you well. “A lot of them when they get addicted to it they think that if they come to the emergency department to let us know that they want help that we’ll judge them, and it’s not. We’ll have a lot more respect for these people that want to come in and get help than continue the addiction that they have,” said Smathers.