In the state of Connecticut opioid drugs and addiction are now more deadly than gunshots and car accidents combined. Three-quarters of the overdose deaths in the United States in the last year were due to opioids according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Opioid addiction has become even more deadly as of late due to manufactured opioids such as fentanyl being mixed with other manufactured opioids like Percocet, or street opioids like heroin. Opioids are also being mixed with other drugs, such as Xanax and cocaine, which is also extremely dangerous.

There were over 2,000 drug overdoses in Connecticut in a four-year span: 2012-2015. In just 2016 alone, opioids claimed the lives of 917 people from Connecticut. These alarming numbers constitute a full-blown epidemic.

Opioids do not discriminate. The average age of overdose victims is 42. The Connecticut towns hardest-hit by this epidemic are Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain and New London.

Opioid overdoses are not race-specific, or gender-specific either. They leave grandparents caring for their grandchildren, siblings caring for each other and, in the worst cases, they are leaving orphans with no one to care for them. These overdoses are affecting all classes of people as well.

Since this opioid crisis is close to reaching pandemic levels in New England, Connecticut’s Gov. Dannel Malloy, signed new legislation titled, An Act Concerning Opioids and Access to Overdose Reversal Drugs in May 2016. The major points of this new act are as follows:

  • All first responders are required to be equipped with opioid antagonists
  • Prescribers must write prescriptions for opioids for only a seven-day supply and explain the reasoning why
  • All opioid prescriptions must be monitored by the Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
  • Any licensed health care professional may administer an opioid antagonist to treat/prevent a drug overdose without being civilly or criminally liable for such action or deemed as violating his/her professional standard of care
  • Any person in good faith who believes another person is experiencing an opioid overdose, if acting reasonably, may administer an opioid antagonist to treat/prevent a drug overdose without being subject to criminal prosecution
  • Opioid antagonists do not require prior health insurance authorization for use, since they are an emergency medication
  • There are other points listed in the legislation as well, and there are also specific directions if the prescriber is prescribing for a minor

There is more legislation being worked on which will hopefully help reduce the occurrence of opioid overdoses.

Not only are legislators working on laws, doctors are also turning over to non-narcotic, non-addictive pain medication as well. Hopefully politicians, doctors and the general public can work together so that we as a state, the area of New England and our whole country do not reach pandemic levels of opioid overdose.

Elyse McDonald lives in Columbia.

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