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Letter: Education is key to ending the current opioid epidemic

Education is key to ending the current opioid epidemic

We at the Erie County Board of Health feel compelled to bring more attention and awareness to the imminent public health epidemic currently upon us. Opioids – both prescription drugs and drugs of abuse, such as heroin and fentanyl – are killing residents at an unprecedented rate. Opiate addiction is affecting residents of all ages and from all walks of life; the disease does not discriminate and has no socioeconomic boundaries.

In 2014, 127 residents’ deaths were attributed to opioids of all types. As of March 28, there have been 219 deaths attributed to opioids in 2015, and there is still a backlog of bodies waiting to have the cause of death cleared through results of toxicology screens.

The broader issue of the epidemic is being addressed through the efforts of the Erie County Opiate Overdose Task Force and its seven work groups. The Erie County Department of Health also offers free naloxone training and kits to anyone touched by this epidemic.

Opiate addiction needs to be regarded as a disease with no stigma attached. As far as treatment, there is very limited in-patient treatment. Denial is a predominant symptom of addiction. This denial encompasses the individual, the family and the community at large. Many communities do not believe that this is occurring in their neighborhood. We must take efforts to intervene prior to the lives being adversely affected by addiction in the first place. Saving our children, family members and friends must become a priority.

We as a community should take the responsibility to educate ourselves about this increasing epidemic. As with all diseases, we need to support prevention efforts, acute intervention and long-term treatment.

James Hoddick, D.D.S.

President

Erie County Board of Health