The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy recently released its 2017 Overdose Fatality Report. The report is stunning. While we all hear of overdose deaths and sometimes even know folks who have lost their lives as the result of an overdose, to see the numbers is staggering.
We lost nearly a thousand people between the ages of 25 and 55 last year. A total of 1,565 people lost their lives to an overdose in Kentucky – 426 of them in Jefferson County. Fentanyl was found in 49% of the overdose deaths statewide and in 64% of Jefferson County’s deadly overdoses.
At The Healing Place, we are on the front lines and see the extreme demand for treatment on a daily basis. Because we talk with folks coming into The Healing Place detox programs every day, we are acutely aware of the drugs on the street and the danger in using those drugs. Our staff deals with the effects every day in working to revive folks who have overdosed and helping to treat those who survived an overdose and are now reaching out for help. Thankfully, we are able to work with those who have survived. At the same time, many of our clients are dealing with the loss of a friend or family member to drug addiction. There is no way to avoid being affected by the epidemic.
There are many challenges facing us these days but one of the most daunting challenges is how to educate those who are still in the madness. How do we communicate to them that every time they pick up might be the last time? How do we help people understand that they really don’t know what they are getting when they buy drugs on the street? Methamphetamine laced with fentanyl, heroin laced with fentanyl, etc.
Folks who are out there in the madness are not using their best judgment, they are not reasonable, so how do we educate them? For some folks, it might be the first time they have used opioids and they don’t get a second chance. These are different questions than the ones that we face when people are in treatment. This is about informing and educating those who have not sought treatment or have returned to using. We know that the fear of dying doesn’t stop people from using. We know that folks are not thinking about the consequences of their drug use when the craving to use is at its most powerful.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I do know that we can let people know that help and treatment are available. We can work to expand the treatment resources. Hopefully, we have gotten to a place where we can support any and all of the interventions that will help keep someone alive so that they can find long term success for themselves – whatever that means and how ever they achieve that doesn’t really matter.
I also know that we can support our community’s efforts to address these problems and to help those families, friends and individuals heal from the devastating consequences of this disease.