Opioids: Where do the youth go from here?
Drugs like methadone and Suboxone have been used as popular remedies to fight substance abuse. The success rate of these effect-countering drugs compared to the significance of their side effects remains in question.
Virginia Fulton, a local RN, says the drugs are beneficial when used under the appropriate conditions but instill fear due to their long-term effects. “If they did it in an appropriate manner and did a tapered dosage, then, yes, I think it could be a very viable option,” Fulton said, “But are you going to be able to keep the person off the drugs? I don’t know. We detoxed the same patients over and over again while I worked at Woodridge.”
According to statistics reported in 2017, the Appalachian region has an opioid overdose mortality rate of 36.7. This means that per 100,000 people ages 15-64 around 37 people will die within the year due to consumption of an opioid.
The majority of counties that comprise the Appalachian region have overdose mortality rates that rank above the national average. According to American Public Health Association data, 41 percent of drug overdoses occur in urban counties, 26 percent occur in suburban counties, 18 percent occur in metropolitan areas and 15 percent occur in rural communities.
Doctor T. Brad Wood, an associate professor at East Tennessee State University, asserts while the widespread media coverage is focused on the escalating mortality rates, the government should focus instead on physical and social remedies. “In my years as a healthcare professional, I have seen firsthand the kind of work that needs to get done in order for this epidemic to improve,” Wood said, “While Suboxone and methadone can be harmful if misused incorrectly, they are both vital remedies to help combat severe addiction.”
The necessity for counterdrugs has become a controversial subject as Suboxone, methadone and others can be overprescribed for monetary purposes. The increase in dosage can not only result in addiction or relapse by the user, but can also directly affect the health of a child in both the short-term and long-term.
“I think the biggest effect I have seen is the children being born addicted,” Fulton said, “When you take care of a baby screaming its head off in the NICU unit and have to give it barbital so it does not have a seizure due to withdrawals, it is absolutely gut-wrenching.”
The crisis not only impacts the life of a child, but also people in the university community as well, as Loren Biggs, senior counselor at ETSU, can attest. “As a clinician in the counseling center, I do periodically work with clients who have been impacted by opioid misuse,” Biggs said, “Usually, this shows up as part of the client’s adverse childhood experiences, with he or she having a parent or caregiver who struggled with prescription drug misuse or illicit drug use, but occasionally a client will come in because they have recently lost a friend or family member to an opioid overdose.”
While the opioid epidemic affects everyday lives, the importance of raising awareness and instilling preventable measures remains important for both Fulton and all employees in the medical field since they want to see a healthier generation in the future.