Opioid use should be a rare alternative for managing pain, and prescribed only for two or three days to help people avoid addiction, according to an expert on substance abuse.
Craig PoVey, prevention administrator for the State of Utah, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, spoke to about 100 people at a town hall meeting Thursday at Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High School.
He said that things are changing in Utah, and cited a statistic that 78 percent of Utahns are now talking to their doctors about alternatives to opioids for managing their pain.
PoVey said it is important for people to keep a close track of the prescription medications they have at home and how many doses they have left. People also need to dispose of them properly.
“Why? Because last year in Utah, accidental overdoses of prescription pain medications killed more people than automobile accidents,” PoVey said. “That is an alarming statistic.”
“Twenty-four people are dying every month from prescription drugs,” he added. “We’ve had times when we were fifth in the nation in drug overdose deaths. Currently, we’re seventh in the nation.”
He said 7,000 prescriptions for pain pills are given every day in Utah.
“Not per month, not per year, but every day,” PoVey said.
Several years ago, doctors were told the latest technology was to use opioids to eliminate pain, and that was considered a good thing.
“They were told that opioids wouldn’t be addictive,” he said. “There are people who are making a whole lot of money because of this.”
PoVey said Tooele County has done a “very nice job” in prevention efforts within schools and the community with programs like “Communities that Care.”
He recommended websites such as useonlyasdirected.org and drugfree.org for parents to learn more about the misuse of opioids and how to talk to and interact with their children to avoid problems in the future.
He said treatments work for those hooked on painkillers.
“We’ve just got to figure out to get people in there, and help them and support them to continue treatment even when they have a relapse,” PoVey said. “Relapses are part of the process. They have to stick with it.”
He said people he knows have been saved with the use of Naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose, according to drugabuse.gov.
Research has shown that opioid addiction can be avoided long before it becomes an issue in the first place as people work together, PoVey said.
“Physicians, religious people, the business community, families, schools and more. When these entities work together, you are going to see amazing results,” he said.
“If you can get a teenager through those teen years until the age of 25, statistics show that they will have very little chance of substance abuse issues,” PoVey said. “On the other hand, if kids start to abuse drugs by the age of 12, there is a 50-50 chance they are going to have problems later on.”
However, PoVey stressed that a U.S. Surgeon General’s report on opioid addiction says it’s never too late to start a prevention footprint.
Parents should make sure their children are bonding with people or institutions that have healthy beliefs and clear standards, he said.
“That’s the bottom line. If not, they bond to the wrong kinds of things like gang involvement” PoVey said.
For more information or questions, PoVey said send email to CLPovey@Utah.gov or call 801-538-4354.