Prevention Plus: Opioid epidemic spreads to CT

Communities like Ridgefield are struggling with a relatively new national crisis. According to the CDC, “The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.”

Often linked to the rise in OxyContin prescriptions, to treat pain, opioids have quickly gone mainstream.

The amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999, the CDC reports. Although many of these prescriptions may have been justified — issued for patients’ relief from chronic, debilitating pain — many more were prescribed for far less serious ailments.

Originally marketed as non-addictive, opioids have risks that even many doctors don’t fully understand.

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted, and once hooked to the medication, it can be near impossible to stop.

Overdose numbers rise

In 2014, nearly two million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioid pain relievers. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids quadrupled.

While West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Kentucky are the states with the highest reported number of overdose deaths in recent years, Connecticut lost 917 people in 2016, up from 729 in 2015 according to the Office of the State Medical Examiner. These are staggering numbers, and they don’t discriminate.

In Connecticut, the average age of a fatal overdose victim is 42 years old, and in 2016, 178 victims were less than 30 years old.

It is important to realize that this can happen to anyone — nobody is immune.

Learning the dangers of prescription narcotics, including well-known brands such as OxyContin, Percocet, Demerol, and many others is the first line of defense. Sharing this information with your loved ones, both young and old, is critical.

Talk to your doctor about alternatives for pain management and limit usage at all costs. Keep all prescriptions safely out of reach, even locked up, to avoid misuse by anyone. And, finally, seek help for yourself or loved ones at the first sign of need. Below are some helpful resources: