Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s measures to deal with the opioid crisis in the state have started showing positive results as the state witnessed a 4 percent decline in the number of accidental drug overdose fatalities in 2017. According to state health officials, 323 deaths were reported last year as against 336 in 2016. Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott described the decrease as a “small bit of momentum” that was beginning to build up after years of steady increases in fatal overdose rates throughout the state.
Alexander-Scott attributed this small success largely to the new initiatives undertaken to treat inmates struggling with opioid addiction in prisons. As part of its efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, Rhode Island made mandatory the screening of all inmates for opioid use disorder in 2016 and ensured that they receive professional medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Though Rhode Island saw a decline in the overall drug overdose deaths involving opioids, officials reported nearly 205 fentanyl-related fatalities in 2017, which suggested a 5 percent increase. According to official figures, during 2011-2015, overdose deaths in the state surged by 50 percent. The state has lost nearly 1,000 of its citizens to the killer epidemic.
In a bid to combat the crisis, Governor Raimondo and state legislators rose to the occasion to deal with the public health crisis and expand access to the treatment, create awareness on prevention, and facilitate recovery. Raimondo created an Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force dedicated to eliminate barriers to treatment and remove stigma so that the most vulnerable sections can have a chance to survive the epidemic. The aim of the task force is to reduce the opioid overdose deaths by one-third in the next three years.
Leading a drug-free life
Opioids are widely prescribed to cope with excruciating pain. They are wonder-working drugs that bind to the same family of receptors in the brain, temporarily numbing its response to painful stimuli. This prompt, yet provisional relief, accompanied by pleasurable sensations, leads to an increase in pain tolerance with every successive dose. This, in turn, multiplies the urge to take higher amount of the medication to experience the same degree of relief and pleasure, culminating in complete drug dependence.
Experts say the very opioid receptors in the brain that respond to pain signals also control emotional impulses like feelings of pleasure, substance cravings, and compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. Such a correlation intensifies the risk of addiction. The need of the hour is to expand access to life-saving treatments to reverse the opioid effects and nip the menace of addiction in the bud. Fortunately, addiction to deadly opioids can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD), he/she should immediately seek professional help from a credible drug treatment rehab.
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