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Last updateWed, 22 Nov 2017 8am

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University Responds to Nationwide Opioid Crisis

MU Response Opioid Crisis 1President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency on Oct. 26. This declaration allows grant money to be released to combat the problem and allows the easing of some laws and regulations.

In the United States, deaths from overdoses now outnumber deaths from car crashes, according to the Times. According to NJ.com, at least 1,901 people died from opioid overdoses in New Jersey in 2016, with a “meteoric” rise in deaths from heroin and fentanyl.

Deaths involving heroin have more than doubled since 2013, and fentanyl-related deaths have risen by 2,000 percent.

“I wouldn’t say there is a large drug problem on campus, but it would be naïve to think that the national opioid problem has not filtered into the surrounding towns, and onto the University campus,” said William McElrath, Chief of the Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD).

According to Laura Jannone, RN, NJ-CSN, FNASN, coordinator of the School Nurse Program at the University, this increasing drug problem was why the Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health co-sponsored an Opioid Conference in partnership with Horizon NJ Health.

Held on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Pozycki Hall, the program was attended by over 80 school nurses, educators from all over the state, and current students from the University’s nursing and health studies programs.

“I think opioids are a problem everywhere, not exclusive to Monmouth University,” said Jannone. “I know they are a problem in the surrounding area. I was a school nurse in several districts before coming to Monmouth. There was a small opioid problem then, which has gotten much worse due to the availability of new prescription opioids that were not available when I was a school nurse.”

MU Response Opioid Crisis 2“Prescription pills of all sorts are a problem,” said McElrath. “All of our officers are trained in the use of Narcan, and our patrol cars are equipped with a kit. Thankfully, our officers have never had to use Narcan.”

Narcan, also known as Naloxone, can be used to treat drug overdoses in emergency situations, according to the United States Department of Health’s website. According to an article by NJ.com published in 2016, Narcan has been used 18,000 times in the state of New Jersey since 2014.

 “I think, and I know, that there is a national problem with addiction,” said Suanne Schaad, LPC, LCADC, the University’s Substance Awareness Coordinator. “Anyone who works in the field is so aware of the opioid epidemic, and we are aware of its powerful affect. I also know that the fear of withdrawing is a real fear for people, so I don’t minimize it, and I certainly assist students in securing a safe detox program when needed.”

“There are many therapeutic techniques we use in a counseling session,” said Schaad. “I am always fascinated by [the question], ‘Are you comfortable with your use?’ The responses are so interesting, because oftentimes we know in our gut that things aren’t going well.”

According to Schaad, the counselors will also do an inventory of the core areas, such as school, health, and family, of a student’s life to see how drug use may be affecting those areas. She also recommends student programs such as the Students in Recovery organization and the new Students in Recovery Lounge.

“I wouldn’t explain that my job is to try to convince students not to do drugs,” said Schaad. “I look at it more like I set the stage for students to look at things, and see what is working for them, and what is not.”

 “Addiction affects everyone in some way,” Jannone added. “Every 12 minutes, a person dies of prescription drug overdose in the United States. Deaths due to opioid overdose claim the lives of approximately 91 Americans every day.”

Overall, opioid-related deaths among Americans 24 years old and younger almost doubled between 2005 and 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIH), the most abused opioids are prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) and oxycodone (also known as OxyContin and Percocet), among others.

Other often-abused opioids include heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that, according to the NIH, is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent.

According to statistics from the CDC and the NIH, roughly “21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them,” and “between eight and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.” It was also found that an estimated “four to six percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.”

Overwhelmingly, though, it was found that those who use heroin first misused prescription opioids, with “about 80 percent” of those surveyed responding as such.

The opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency by Trump in late October, as he called it the “worst drug crisis in American history.”

“Addressing [the crisis] will require all of our effort, and it will require us to confront the crisis in all of its very real complexity,” he said, during a speech on Oct. 26. “It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”

As a result of his declaration, states will be given more flexibility in how they use federal funds to treat addiction, according to The Washington Post.

The federal government will also waive some regulations, such as allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up their hiring process, so they can have more people available to help states in crisis, and the Department of Labor will make Dislocated Worker Grants available to those with opioid addictions, or those otherwise having trouble finding work due to addiction.

The use of telemedicine treatment, which is used to give prescriptions without physically meeting a doctor, will also be expanded in isolated areas such as Appalachia, according to USA Today.

The government will also spend money from the Public Health Emergency Fund, even though said fund only has about $57,000 available. However, the White House is reportedly working with Congress to find additional funding for the crisis.

However, the crisis will not be declared a “more sweeping” national state of emergency, according to the Post, which would have given states access to funding from the federal Disaster Relief Fund.

According to official reports, “such an emergency declaration would not be a good fit for a long-time crisis.” The public health emergency period will last for 90 days, but can be renewed at any time, according to USA Today.

“States like New Jersey are taking a lead by not allowing first time prescriptions for opioids to go beyond a five day period, mandating insurance companies to cover for lengthy treatment stays in hospitals, and by loosening restrictions on the life-saving drug Naloxone,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science. “The hope is that President Trump’s declaration will be backed up with additional federal funding to help states navigate this crisis.”

Some disagreed with the declaration of a public health emergency.

The announcement was “very disappointing,” according to Andrew Kolodny, Ph.D. and co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaboration at Brandeis University, in an interview with NPR. Kolondy went on to explain that without funding for new addiction treatment, “the administration still has no plan for dealing with opioids.”

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IMAGE TAKEN from NJ.com

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