The opioid crisis is gripping national headlines, and the state of Arkansas struggles with the nation’s second highest rate of opioid prescriptions. On October 25th, the Boone County Hometown Health Improvement hosted a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic in our community. Brian Unruh, EMS Director, represented North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in the discussion.
Detective Matt Odom of the Harrison Police Department kicked off the meeting by presenting statistics and information about the growing opioid epidemic. Opioids are also known as narcotic pain medications, and the mostly commonly abused opioids are methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone. According to the CDC, more than 40 people die a day from opioid overdoses. According to Odom, the only way to reversing this epidemic is to improve how pain is treated.
According to Unruh, from July 2016 to June 2017, less than 1 percent of NARMC’s EMS transports were related to opioid overdoses. Even though that number is less than the state average, Unruh along with the other panel participants agreed that opioid addiction is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Unruh joined several local participants including Dr. Tara Wilmont, PharmD and owner of Sam Alexander Pharmacy; Dr. Stewart Pratt, Harrison School District Superintendent; Dan Sherrell, Harrison Mayor; and Ron McNair, District 98 State Representative on the interactive panel. A large amount of the conversation was focused on Naloxene, also known as Narcan, which is a medication that can block the affects of opioids. In the state of Arkansas, pharmacists can prescribed Naloxene, if an individual is at risk of an opioid overdose or if a person is in a position to assist someone with an increased risk of an opioid overdose.
Odom told the crowd that physicians over prescribing is not always the problem. Opioid abusers can get prescription drugs from family, friends or buy from a stranger. Unruh reminded the crowd of simple steps they can take to reduce their risks and other’s around them.
“Do not keep medications past their expiration date. If it is prescribed to you, use it until it expires and then get rid of it properly,” Unruh said. “Do not share it.” Harrison Police Department and Boone County Sheriff’s Department both have drug take back boxes in their offices for proper disposal.