Wisconsin’s Opiate Epidemic


Wisconsin’s Opiate Epidemic


Narcotic deaths: The number one cause of accidental deaths, now exceeds auto accident deaths. Since the turn of the century, there has been a several fold increase in the use of heroin, and as a result, an 11-fold increase in heroin deaths. It’s the same story we have heard too often as of late, kids are dying from opiates. Sometimes, because they mix the drugs with alcohol, sometimes because they progress to heroin and overdose, and sometimes because they take their own life because the pain is too great. Every time it happens it is devastating to the addict, their families and their friends.

A kid takes a pill at a party, not really knowing what it is, then pours some alcohol on top of it. They go to sleep and sometimes they don’t wake up. The combination causes respiratory depression, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest and death. The friends that find them in the morning are forever changed. Nobody meant any harm, it was just one pill, just a couple of drinks. What those kids don’t realize is they are playing Russian roulette with their lives. Those who hand out the pills are handing them the gun. What starts as an innocent desire to have a good time, all too often ends in tragedy. Those kids didn’t intend to die, the friend who gave them the pill certainly didn’t want to cause harm, yet lives are forever changed because of a couple of poor decisions. Kids need to understand the danger and they need to hear stories like those that are talked about in this news story (link at top of page). These are real lives snuffed out by opiates. It happens far too often when it shouldn’t happen at all.

Sometimes kids start with Vicodin, Percocet or something similar. They get it from their parent’s medicine cabinet, they get it from friends, innocently enough most times. But something happens to some, an addiction is awakened in them, they need to have more. No way to tell who will fall prey. When they visit friend’s or other family member’s homes they go through their medicine cabinets looking for more drugs. They may fake pain to get a doctor to prescribe something. They very well may buy the drugs from someone at school. The pills are everywhere. They will start to steal things to pay for them because they are very expensive. Then someone will tell them how much cheaper heroin is. They’ll try it. They’ll love it. The high is better, faster, the addictive properties of heroin will overtake them and they will no longer be able to control their desire for the drug. All too often, they will overdose and die. They didn’t intend to become an addict, and certainly didn’t intend to die so young. Even if they don’t overdose, their lives are tortuous. There isn’t anything pretty about an addict’s need to do whatever they can to get their drug. They will lie, cheat and steal, often from the people they love the most. They deny help because they can’t imagine living without their drug.

If they don’t end up dead, a life of drug addiction is no picnic. Pain, depression, anxiety, loneliness, desperation, jail, mental institutions, living on the street-these are the things that addicts have to look forward to. Sometimes death is preferable and suicide becomes the only foreseeable option.

The drugs don’t care if you are a boy or a girl, if you are black or white, if you have a lot of money or a little. Kids with difficult lives become addicts; kids living in privilege become addicts; kids anywhere in between become addicts. Drugs are an equal opportunity destroyer, they are patient and seductive. We all need to work together to stop addiction before it starts because once it starts it is so difficult to stop. Too many of our young people are dying. What can we do to help? Here are some ideas, if you have more ideas please leave comments here. We need all the help we can get, we need to band together and fight. Fight for our kids.

-If you are saving your prescription bottle of opiates for a future time when you might need it, GET RID OF IT. There is no good reason to keep these dangerous drugs around ‘just in case’. You need to get them out of your house. If you need them in the future, you can always get another prescription. Unfortunately, doctors are often too liberal with prescribing opiates.

-Walgreens (http://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-safe-medication-disposal-kiosks-now-available-at-nearly-300-pharmacies-in-21-states-initiative-leads-fight-against-prescription-drug-abuse.htm) and most police stations have places where you can drop off your medications, no questions asked. They will then destroy them. Take them to one of these sites and get rid of them before they have a chance to begin the addiction that is destroying so many lives.

-If you have pain, try a non-narcotic intervention first. Don’t automatically accept a prescription for an opiate. Other things work too, even less powerful pain relievers and non-pharmacological things work. Ask your doctor if there is something else you can try. If you do need opiates, take them with caution and keep them locked up…

-If you must have opiates or other controlled substances (pain medications, antianxiety drugs, drugs for ADHD, antidepressants, etc.) in your home, LOCK THEM UP. There are many different ways to do this, but a strong safe with a combination lock is a good choice. One that can’t be easily moved or broken into is best.

-Narcan or Naloxone (reverses the effects of opiates) can now be obtained without a prescription in some states, Wisconsin is one of them. If you know someone who suffers from an opiate addiction you should have this readily available in case of an overdose. The cost is $20-$40. Small price to pay for this life saving medication.

If you think this silly, that this couldn’t happen to you; your kids are safe; the opiates in your medicine cabinet won’t hurt anyone, please think again. It can start so innocently.  All it takes is one pill. One time. Protect your kids, my kids and everyone’s kids.

About the Author

Kristin Waite-Labott is a registered nurse and recovering addict who has firsthand experience with the challenges of addiction. She now works as the Head Nurse Coach at Veritus, a virtual treatment program for nurses with substance use and mental health disorders, and is dedicated to helping nurses overcome addiction and making a difference in the lives of others. Kristin is passionate about addressing the growing problem of addiction among healthcare professionals and encourages open discussions and action to prevent it from spreading further.

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