Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose according to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, opioid overdose deaths have increased among all races, men and women, and adults of various ages.
On Sep. 28, the Cleveland Clinic hosted a series of panel discussions about the opioid epidemic in the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain County Community College. The theme of the conference was “Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil: The Triple Threat on Our Doorstep”.
The conference brought awareness, conversation, and empowerment to the community as well as access to resources and information needed to deal with the opioid problem that is very prevalent in the community. “Last year there were over 50,000 deaths from overdoses and that is more than we have lost in the Vietnam War,” said Rebecca Starck, M.D., President of Avon Hospital and moderator and panelist at the conference. “Every three weeks, we lose as many people to the opioid epidemic than we have lost in 9-11.” Panelist’s at the conference included Tom Stuber, President of The LCADA Way and Jim Schaeper, President of ADAS Board of Lorain County.
According to Stuber, the president and CEO of 37 years for the LACDA Way, the opioid epidemic has not hit its peak. “I lived through several epidemics and the opioid epidemic has become the biggest challenge,” said Stuber. He estimates that the peak of the opioid epidemic hasn’t peaked yet and won’t until the year of 2019 with methamphetamine’s to be the next epidemic.
“We need to teach people how to stabilize and manage their illness,” said Stuber, “That includes medication, detoxification, that will include long-term intensive rehabilitation. And it takes a commitment to recovery that will have to sustain after recovery.” The brain takes a minimum of thirty-five weeks to stabilize after an opioid addiction and will re-stabilize after the seven to eight days of withdraw.
“It will continue to be episodes of brain readjustment,” said Stuber. “This may even be seven to eight months after absence,” Stuber explained.
Participating in treatment for an opioid user is essential for a healthy recovery. “The addict needs to be engulfed in recovery work and cocooned in treatment.” said Stuber. In Lorain County, the Road to Hope House and Primary Purpose are treatment facilities users can go for rehabilitation.
“Pain is the motivator for opioid usage,” said Starck. “In 2016, there were 132 opiate deaths with an occurrence twice a week,” she said, “The medical emergency professionals estimate at least eight to ten overdose patients per shift in Lorain County.” Starck pointed out the importance of properly disposing of prescription medications. “Many of us have prescription drugs around the medicine cabinet, please dispose of your unused prescriptions, especially narcotics,” said Starck. Communication among health care providers and patients are vital. Educational awareness and conversation amongst all community members is essential in fighting the epidemic.
Community awareness and activism as well as long-time recovery homes was stressed as a solution to fight this epidemic. “Patients need that long-time recovery process,” said Schaeper, “80% of users are successful in beating addictions with a long-term recovery facility, 55% users were successful in recovery with non-long-time recovery”. The community needs to be more active in doing their part. Things like voting for the levees needed to fund resources as well as communication within the community.
Schaeper sat on the panel at the conference representing a parent who has lost a child to the opioid epidemic. “My youngest son passed away Jan. 27, 2013 as a result of this disease,” he said. “He was in detox and had passed away in his fifth day into detox”. A friend of Schaeper’s son convinced him to become proactive in fighting against the epidemic. “He had just graduated from West Virginia University and was going to start a new job,” Schaeper said. “He had back issues for quite some time so we urged him to take care of that prior to starting his new career.” The back issue resulted in the start of the opioid use. “He started purchasing pills from a co-worker for his pain,” he said. Schaeper currently sits on three different boards active in fighting against the epidemic. “My main thing is to really see what I can do to make it so that a parent doesn’t have to suffer the same loss that I did,” said Schaeper.