Informed Families President & CEO Peggy Sapp was invited to participate in a round table discussion about the opioid epidemic on Saturday, April 20. Organized by Congresswoman Donna Shalala, the panel was moderated by Rodrigo Lozano, LCSW, from the National Association of Social Workers and included John W. Newcomer, M.D., president and CEO of South Florida Behavioral Health Network in Miami, FL, Judge Victoria Sigler and Howard Rosen, Esq., head of narcotics in the State Attorney’s Office.
Informed Families Catalyst
Drug overdose was responsible for the loss of nearly 72,000 Americans in 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. That’s just under 200 people each day for the entire year - and 8,000 more deaths than the previous year, also a record year. At least 2/3 of those deaths were due to opioid abuse. Here are two trends that are contributing to this awful epidemic.
From Pills To Heroin
Patients receiving prescription drugs for pain as a result of an injury or recovering from surgery are often given significantly more than they need. While opioids are effective in managing pain, their addictive properties make them dangerous for long-term use.
How Large Is The Opioid Problem In Florida?
With the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, Florida is certainly not immune. And apparently, the problem is getting worse. According to a recent report from Florida's medical examiners, there has been a dramatic 22% increase (2,126 more deaths) of in drug-related deaths from the prior year. The report also showed a 35% increase in opioid-related deaths (1,483 over the previous year for a total of 5,725).
Not suprisingly, more deaths were caused by prescription drugs than illicit drugs, accounting for 61% of all drug occurrences in the report. After all, availability and a low perception of harm lead to increased use and abuse.
The drugs that caused the most deaths were cocaine, benzodiazepines, fentanyl, morphine, heroin, alcohol, oxycodone, methadone and methamphetamine.
“Clearly, those are shocking numbers and we have got to do something about it,” said Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, R-Tampa to The News Service of Florida.
Here are additional highlights from the report:
5 Ways Parents Are Like The "Instant Pot"
(...That's the cooking pot, not marijuana!)
Have you heard of the latest kitchen craze? There’s a new device that can do it all: the 7-in-one version can steam, sauté, slow cook, pressure cook, cook rice, make yogurt (not sure who has time for that) and warm food. It’s called an Instant Pot!
The Instant Pot has been around for a few years, but recently hit a tipping point and became Amazon’s top selling kitchen device. The device’s developers spent no money on advertising, choosing to strategically send a free Instant Pot to hundreds of cooking bloggers, which led to word of mouth and hitting an all-time high at the end of 2016. (Remember, this is how behavior changes and why we need you to tell your friends about Informed Families’ Four Campaigns.)
People love The Instant Pot because it saves so much time! A dish that cooks in a slow cooker for 8 hours only takes 25-30 minutes. You can even cook frozen meat – and do it quickly. Talk about a blessing for busy parents. In today’s 24/7/365 technology-crazed life, any opportunity to simplify and reduce time and effort is key to our sanity! (Our prevention tips will also SAVE YOU LOTS OF TIME in the future.)
Parents are a lot like the “Instant Pot” because:
Another successful Lock Your Meds campaign is coming to a close. This initiative is aimed at providing prescription drugs abuse facts to parents, students and educators, as well as encouraging parents to keep powerful medicine locked up and away from teens who might steal and improperly use the pills.
Yet, the effort to curb prescription drug abuse can’t end simply because our 2017 campaign is ending. Pills remain a big problem in Florida schools and teachers are an important ally in keeping kids safe. Here are several prescription drug abuse facts teachers should know:
Per 2012 numbers from the CDC, an estimated 6.4 million people in the United States have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Within this statistic, about 3.5 million children are taking some sort of medication, including Adderall, for the condition. According to the New York Times, the legal sale of prescription stimulants soared to $9 billion in 2012, more than a four-fold increase in just a decade. ADHD is a big business and more pills are available to patients than ever.
Unfortunately, many of those pills end up in the hands of teenagers who aren’t suffering from ADHD. Adderall abuse, normally associated with college students, is becoming a bigger problem with teens who are misusing the drug in an attempt to help with studying or simply for a recreational high. And because Adderall is so commonly prescribed, many students have learned how to work the system to obtain a script from their doctors.
Ready (But Actually Not), Heroin Is Here
As the government cracks down on “doctor shopping,” or going to multiple doctors to obtain pain medication which by the way is illegal in Florida, and America becomes increasingly aware of the dangers of opioid abuse, people already addicted to opioids looking to satisfy their need/illness are turning to a cheaper and more easily accessible alternative: good ole heroin.
Like the 1980’s anti-drug commercial says, “no one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’” The same is true over 30 years later. People don’t seek out addiction.
Two important predictors of drug use are: availability and a low perception of harm. So what helps create an opioid epidemic? People perceive them to be safe because they are legal – and they are widely prescribed and easy to obtain. In fact, the source of the opioids is typically from friends and family. 67% of all abused pain meds come from someone you know, not a stranger, drug dealer or the internet.
And people who abuse opioids are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin. Not very good odds, if you ask me.
As an Informed Families board member and the Director of South Miami Hospital’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center (ATRC), I’m grateful to share my experience and observations about drug trends from the “front lines” at Baptist Health South Florida. Boy, we really do see it all. On a regular basis, I see many people at their lowest point, struggling with the disease of addiction. For many who attend our programs, I get to witness a wonderful transformation back into good health. However, I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to prevent children and families from getting into drugs in the first place.
Leading up to the start of each school year, we focus our energy on preparing kids for a success, whether by purchasing the necessary school supplies, meeting with new teachers and mapping out our fall schedule. One thing we hope to never worry about is our kids falling into the wrong crowd and adopting new negative and dangerous behaviors, such as using drugs. But, hoping isn’t enough sometimes. As parents, we need to educate ourselves and take action to protect our children. By staying involved with our children, contributing to their self-esteem, setting healthy boundaries, monitoring behavior, getting to know their teachers, knowing their friends, despite any pushback we might get from them, we are truly making a difference and reducing the likelihood that they will get into trouble.
Another school year has begun, and with it, the hope that students will thrive over the next nine months and make it to next summer safe and successful. For principals and superintendents concerned about drugs in schools, there is a ray of optimism: Usage rates among teens are generally remaining steady or slightly declining. However, this news shouldn’t be cause for celebration, but rather, a mandate that prevention initiatives are still important and effective. Too many teens are still engaging in risky behaviors, which rightfully concerns educators, parents and communities who want to keep children protected and drug-free.
There Is Nothing New Under The Sun
First Lady Nancy Reagan, who passed away last week, tirelessly dedicated her time and energy, during her husband’s presidency in the 1980’s, to shine a light on the nation’s drug problem.
Her “Just Say No” message originated during an event in Atlanta where a child asked her what to do if someone offered her drugs. Reagan replied with the now famous response and the media picked it up. While we can all agree that it’s not easy to say “no” and the latest prevention science provides us with more comprehensive and effective ways to educate and inspire children to make healthy choices, the message was clear: our children have a right to grow up safe, healthy and drug free – and we have the responsibility to make that happen.
At the time, some people heard the message, some people didn’t hear the message and others didn’t like the message. The same is true today. There is nothing new under the sun. Scientists continue to identify dangers of marijuana use, states who have legalized it are seeing a rapid increase in use among youth – and yet, the legalization trend is not slowing down. Prescription drug use and heroin use are epidemics we can no longer ignore.
Below is a formal statement from Informed Families and the National Family Partnership mourning the loss of our friend Nancy Reagan. We appreciate all of her support over the years. We also appreciate and thank each of you, our readers and supporters, for your dedication to helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.