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Opioids: County expands fight against overdoses

Opioids: County hands out drug to reverse overdose effects

In April, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged that more people — not just first responders — start carrying a drug that immediately reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. Even if they don’t know any addicts.

The County of Santa Clara had been doing exactly that, and has recently expanded its efforts. On Aug. 29, 2018, the Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project handed out naloxone (Narcan, by one brand name) to anyone who asked for it at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s weekly farmers market.

Santa Clara County has not experienced the opioid crisis as severely as other parts of the country, and officials would like to keep it that way.

Opioid use in Santa Clara County

It’s not as if opioids aren’t a problem here at all. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 13, opioid overdoses killed at least 27 people in the County — all males, with an average age of 26.5 years old. But officials say there may have been more than 27. A number of deaths are still under investigation. Last year, there were 70 confirmed deaths and 78 in 2016.

More than 5 percent of Santa Clara County residents older than 11 had an opioid disorder in 2016, according to the County of Santa Clara Health System.

That’s why SCCOOPP, a multiagency project run by the County and headed by the Behavioral Health Services Department, decided to hand out Narcan kits at the farmers market.

“We all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids,” said Bruce Copley, deputy director of behavioral health. “Our health system is working together to prevent
deaths from overdoses, treat people with substance-use disorders, and prevent people from starting using drugs in the first place.”


Laced with fentanyl

The general distribution of naloxone is just one of many strategies the County is using to prevent opioid overdose deaths, including getting 15 law enforcement agencies to carry the Narcan kits, and providing education at the high school and college levels.

One big aspect of the crisis is that street drugs like heroin and and similar, synthetic compounds such as oxycodone are often laced with fentanyl, a far more powerful opioid. That endangers users because they do not know just how large a dose they are taking.

This is less of a risk for those who use opium-based drugs under a doctor’s care, but people who become addicted sometimes switch to cheaper street drugs when their doctor cuts them off or they can no longer afford it.

The County of Santa Clara County will continue these and other activities to prevent more opioid overdose deaths in our community.

— Story by Chuck Carroll

 

August 30, 2018

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