Every 19 minutes someone in the United States dies from an opioid overdose. Lake County families have been devastated as death rates tripled in the last 20 years in this area. Thanks to a new federal grant, though, treatment in the area could double in the next two years thanks to having a drug rehab center in Chicago.
The Scale of the Problem
While overall illegal drug use across the United States is on the decline, opiate use continues to rise. Opiates (or opioids) include illegal drugs such as heroine and opium, but also abuse of legal medications like OxyContin, Vicodin and Codeine.
Opiate addiction is a complex problem likely related to abundance of prescriptions written, social acceptability of the use of medication, transference of addiction from legal opiates to illegal drugs, and other factors. Whatever the reasons, more prescriptions are written for opiates in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
- The US accounts for almost 100% of global consumption of hydrocodone (like Vicodin) and 81% of oxycodone (like Percocet and OxyContin)
- The number of heroin users doubled in the past 10 years. Many new heroin users started with prescription opiates, but found heroine cheaper and easier to obtain.
- Opiate addiction costs billions of dollars in terms of hospital visits, car accidents and other injuries, incarceration and treatment. Not to mention the expense in terms of human life.
Treating Addiction in Lake County
In the past “treatment”for addiction was often punitive: drug use and possession are both illegal and therefore punishable by law. In terms of tax dollars, however, that approach didn’t save anyone money; it is also ineffective.
The Medication Assisted Treatment program in Lake County takes a different approach to save lives, provide (or refer) care, and ultimately follow best practices for long-term successful treatment of opioid addiction. The new grant allows the MAT clinic to become a Federally Qualified Health Center, which will allow the growth of future resources as well.
The MAT clinic provides alcohol swabs, clean needles, and effective medications. While Illinois is still behind the curve, nationwide, in terms of mediation take-back programs and access to the opioid-overdose prevention medication naloxone, the MAT program will allow the county health department to treat 200 individuals.
What You Can Do
If you or a loved-one struggles with opioid addiction, treatment has become more effective and efficient than ever. Illinois residents can also:
- Educate yourselves and your family about the risk of opiate addiction and prescription drug abuse.
- Encourage lawmakers to adopt state policy in keeping with other effective models. The governor vetoed the Heroin Crisis Act, but something similar is needed. Every day someone in Illinois dies from an opioid overdose.
- Encourage pharmacy take-back programs for prescription opiates.
- Fight for increased accessibility to the life-saving overdose medication naloxone. Several states have made naloxone available without a prescription to at-risk individuals, already saving many lives. Lake County officers trained in the administration of naloxone have saved nearly 100 lives with overdose-intervention medication just so far this year.
Local and federal resources, with your support, stand the best chance of making opiate addiction a thing of the past.