Opioids take lives locally and nationally
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Deaths caused by the opioid fentanyl caused almost three times more deaths in Ventura County in 2017 than in the preceding year, according to USA Today. Many were caused by “street drugs” rather than prescriptions, even though, as an L.A. Democrat attests,"over prescribing of opioid medications has directly contributed to the addiction crisis." Clearly, the problem has been caused by a variety of complex factors.
On the state level, opioids caused more than two thousand deaths in 2016. Some in California have viewed the opioid crisis as more national than local, believing that California has been less affected. Unfortunately, as Assemblyman Evan Low told the Capital Public Radio, this perception is untrue and California has been hit “devastatingly” hard. Problems are the most prevalent in rural areas, but many urban areas have been affected as well. The San Francisco area as well as Ventura County have experienced their fair share of drug-related deaths, especially from fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid (a substance that attaches to opioid receptors which control aspects such as pain and reward in the brain), and many problems stem from the mixing of multiple drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl. Those using drugs other than fentanyl are often unaware of other ingredients and unwittingly overdose.
Another area experiencing problems is Butte County. There, opioids are prescribed about two times more than in California and about three times more than in the United States as a whole. Within the older age demographic in this area, there are 30 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people.
The crises in Ventura County, San Francisco, and Butte County are representative of the larger opioid crisis in California and in the United States more generally. The prevention services manager who works for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department’s Alcohol and Drug Programs confirmed, “What we are seeing is consistent with a national trend.”
What measures are being taken to address these multifarious issues? In San Francisco, organizations use test strips that can identify fentanyl in other drugs, reports KQED. They are used in “Harm Reduction Centers” that offer services to drug users. Also recently, California has pushed for ten new opioid-related bills and five of these bills have been passed by a legislative committee. These bills would enact new solutions such as monitor opioid prescriptions for minors, support addiction treatments, and require doctors to electronically prescribe medication. California also has created CURES (California Utilization Review and Evaluation System) which records and monitors prescriptions electronically. Progress is being made, albeit slowly.