Earlier this month Janene Holter, senior supervisory agent in the state attorney general’s Office of Public Engagement, delivered some sobering words of advice at the Henry Hood Center for Health Research in Danville on helping to prevent overdose of opioids, even if they themselves were not addicted or actively prescribed opioid based medications like Vicodin, Percocet and Tylenol with codeine. She informed the 30 attendees on the 4,642 deaths from heroin and other opioids in 2016 that increased to 5,400 in 2017 with forty percent of those deaths involving prescription opioids and that four out of five heroin users graduated from prescription drugs. In Pennsylvania, 78 percent of the 67 counties have a death rate higher than the national average.
She offered some obvious, but often overlooked, advice which helps protect those who are in need of such painkillers on alternatives to using prescription opioids, such as going with alternatives like aspirin and ibuprofen as a first option and contacting their physician if anything further is necessary. She continued to advise on being inquisitive about what medications their doctor prescribes; asking what the drug is, what it’s for, what possible side effects it has, whether it’s addictive and whether it’s an opiate. The final friendly reminder before getting into more serious issues was to make sure to store drugs in places that are out of site and generally in monitored areas like a bedside drawer rather than the medicine cabinet in a guest bathroom if you have small children.
Kids and Opioids
From there, the lecture turned to less obvious and darker worries over keeping opioids in the home. She advised not to post about receiving prescriptions of opioids on social media or publicly talk about the pain medication even around family members, especially teens, due to the rise of what she called ‘pharma parties’. Pharma parties involve teens gathering for recreational use of prescription drugs found in their parents’ and friends homes, particularly those derived from opioids and administered as painkillers.
Part of the storage advice she mentioned prior also tied to visitors, even friends, who might not be forthcoming about their addiction who could possibly swipe and later overdose on the pills intended for their own use. Also by not being publicly open about what medications being used, it prevents possible burglaries related to obtaining opioid based medications.
Near the closing of her speech, she assigned homework to the audience.
“Go home and look where you store your medications.”
The fight against opioid addiction can be inadvertently fueled by our own mishandling of medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Maintaining positive control over it’s storage can ensure that younger family members who aren’t aware of effects and away from friends that might possibly be addicted can sometimes mean the possibility between life and death for them. If you know someone who may be addicted or if you think you might be, call the Philly Counseling Center for a professional diagnosis and treatment options at 610-298-1999.