By CYNTHIA KMETT
Let’s take an unvarnished look at the opioid epidemic in our community. Just last year, Beaumont Troy had to rescue 192 people from death from a drug overdose. Ninety-one of those people had overdosed on heroin, reported James Kessler, Clinical Nurse Manager of Emergency Services Beaumont Health Systems, Troy Campus, during a panel discussion on the opioid use going on in our community. The hospital also treated over 210 people who weren’t dying, but had taken too much of stimulants, tranquilizers, cocaine and other drugs.
If numbers like this make you afraid, “you should be,” warns Judge Kirsten Nielsen Hartig, of 52-4 District Court.
So, what kinds of drugs should you be afraid of using, whether you’re young or old? “You have to know when to be proactive,” says Dr. Melissa Eiben, vice president of the Troy Community Coalition, owner and chiropractor of Pure Health Center in Troy. Opioids are natural or synthetic drugs to relieve pain. Are we taking too many of these drugs? Well, Dr. Eiben notes that there are 107 prescriptions written for each 100 Michigan residents, and 50 percent of them are for hydrocodone (think Vicodin).
But there are other drugs that can get you in trouble, too, like stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers. And be forewarned, heroin deaths have tripled since just 2010, Dr. Eiben notes.
It was stimulants and tranquilizers that led to addiction for Angela Bogota, Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities motivational speaker. She told the audience at the Troy Public Library program sponsored by the Troy Community Coalition that she grew up in a typical suburban family, was a cheerleader and ran track. She said she would have been described as “a good kid,” although she admits to dabbling in alcohol in high school. Rather than going to college right away, Angela landed a job in a Fortune 500 company selling mortgages.
But it was a 70-hour-a-week job and she needed a boost. For that she got Adderall to help her stay peppy. But she couldn’t sleep and her doctor gave her Xanax. When she started nodding off at her desk, she was fired.
“I resorted to stealing every single day to supply my drug habit,” she confessed. Of course, eventually you get caught. She bonded out, but her boyfriend remained locked up. “These drugs can wreak havoc with your thought process,” she continued. To get that money for her boyfriend’s bail she committed an armed robbery. That landed her 21 months in prison, That was the first time she said to herself, “This is crazy.”
Angela says she was lucky that her judge also ordered her to six months of rehabilitation after her stint in prison. “It saved my life,” she declares. She followed that with a year of sober living, and today, now five years sober, Angela talks to our kids about how easy it is to slip into a drug-filled lifestyle and what the consequences might be.
Where do kids get these drugs in the first place? According to Nancy Morrison, executive director of the Troy Community Coalition, most likely it is by raiding the family’s medicine cabinet, or perhaps their grandparents. Even more concerning, a party craze today is for kids to put their ill-gotten drugs in a bowl and then everyone grabs a few and takes them. They might recognize a few, but with over 200 opioids on the market, who knows what they’re taking and how dangerous a drug interaction might be.
If you’re worried a child of yours might be indulging in such an event, the Coalition will sell you a test kit for $25 that tests for eight popular kinds of drugs. Just the threat of drug testing might keep your child from taking any illicit pills.
Morrison’s advice, “Lock up your drugs.” There are even folks today who spend Sunday afternoons going to real estate open houses, just to look for drugs in medicine chests and cupboards.
And, if you have left over drugs, don’t keep them. You can drop them off at the Troy Police Station any day, preferably in a plastic bag. Sorry, no liquids.
Sgt. Dan Langbeen of the Troy Police Department, and a member of the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team, reminds us that many of these drugs are more powerful than ever. As heroin has been in short supply, drug dealers are adding fentanyl, which he points out is deadly. So deadly that officers and medical personnel are not to even touch it. The Narcotics Enforcement Team actually captured 1 kilo of fentanyl; it was enough to kill 330,000 people (that is not a typo).
Troy Police used Narcan to save someone from an overdose 14 times last year. It’s in every police car today.
New programs are being developed to help those who really want help ending addiction, Sgt. Langbeen notes. One of those is Hope Not Handcuffs from Families Against Narcotics. An addict can go to dozens of local police stations and ask for help. The program has “Angels” who will arrive and help the addict find treatment. The addict will not be arrested, but if they have drugs on them, those will be confiscated. “It’s easier for our kids to get heroin than alcohol,” Sgt. Langbeen warns. In case you don’t know, heroin is much cheaper on the street than any of the prescription drugs.
My child won’t become an addict, you say when they’re given an opioid for a sports injury. Wrong. Seventy-three percent of all addicts succumb to addiction from a legal prescription they received for a sports injury, a pulled wisdom tooth, knee or hip surgery or just ordinary pain, the Hope Not Handcuffs program points out.
Judge Hartig agrees. Plus, she’s seeing more young women addicted than ever before. At least one or two Troy high school girls a month are showing up in her courtroom addicted to heroin.
And if you run out of your prescription, don’t run to the Beaumont ER complaining about your knee surgery or tooth pain. The policy, Kessler explains, is not more opioids unless you have cancer or a vary serious injury, like a broken bone sticking out through your skin.
Dr. Daniel Farkas, President of the Troy Community Coalition, owner and chiropractor of Back to Health Wellness Center in Troy, observes that with only 3 percent of the world population, Americans consume 95 percent of the world’s opioids. Opioids, he notes, have caused over 300,000 deaths since 2000.
“If you think there’s something going on, you’re probably right,” he observes of changes in behavior by a child, or even a senior parent.
But there are ways to control pain that don’t involve drugs, like cognitive behavior therapy, exercise, massage, chiropractic care, emotional freedom techniques, even Reiki and acupuncture.
The Troy Community Coalition will be glad to help you explore all your options in dealing with the opioid epidemic.