Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final article in a series about opioid addiction, including personal testimonies, resources and awareness efforts.
Danger is lurking inside many medicine cabinets across the United States, and the growing availability of opiate medications is contributing to the epidemic of abuse and overdoses.
According to Courtney Boyette, community relations specialist with Eastpointe MCO, easy accessibility is the main contributing factor in the growing problem with opiate use and abuse.
“Prescription medications are everywhere and can be found in just about every home and medical setting, like hospitals and pharmacies,” Boyette explained. “There is an increasing number of people who have developed an addiction and treatment options are overwhelmed with the amount of people needing help.”
This growing trend is leading healthcare officials and advocates like Boyette to spread the word on treatment options and resources available to those who are struggling with addiction.
“There is more demand than supply,” Boyette said. “Great resources exist out there, but there is an increasing need of more and more each day to get ahead of the game and help people get into the recovery process.”
According to Boyette, some individuals seek treatment voluntarily while others may be referred through the court system or ask for help due to family or work circumstances. However, treatment is most effective when an individual has insight, is motivated and ready for change.
“There is no wrong time to get help,” Boyette shared. “We often see individuals and families who are desperate and in a crisis situation when they reach out for help. This might be an arrest, job loss, homelessness, having suicidal ideations, but then again we also see high functioning individuals who are still employed and able to hide their addiction from others pretty well.”
For many addicts, it isn’t uncommon for them to seek treatment when their supply of medications is cut off and they are experiencing physical withdrawals. When this happens, Boyette encourages full support be offered.
“Support them and encourage them,” she explained. “Listen non-judgmentally. Addiction can be very lonely and lead to isolation, which further sends individuals into a self-destructive cycle in which they see no way out. It is so easy for people to get stuck and experience depression and have no hope that things will ever get better, then this drives continued use. You can set healthy boundaries with people, but do not turn your back on them either”
Awareness, according to Boyette, should begin early.
“Insight and awareness needs to be raised on all levels and with each age group,” she said. “It is vital that everyone take a ‘piece of the pie’ in order to address this epidemic. No one agency or organization can do it alone. It is going to require a partnership to make a dent in this growing problem.
Boyette encourages parents and mentors to begin talking to children at a young age and share the dangers of prescription drug use and give them guidance of not taking medications unless it comes from their parent or legal guardian.
“Encourage children to not take pills from friends or at school,” Boyette said. “And those individuals who have controlled medication should take necessary safety precautions. Please keep meds locked up and in a safe environment to keep them from being diverted. Count them and know how many are in the bottle.”
It is highly recommended that old medications not being used be properly disposed of to a designated drop box or back to a pharmacy. In Clinton, there is a drop box located at the Clinton Police Department that is available at any time.
Locally, Boyette said resources like Celebrate Recovery, the Sampson County Substance Abuse Coalition and Eastpointe are all available to connect someone who is struggling with addiction to services and treatment that can help.
According to Boyette, for those who are interested in personally helping a friend or family member, there is curriculum called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) available through agencies like Eastpointe that is free and available to anyone in the community. To request a training, Boyette said to visit the Eastpointe website www.eastpointe.net.
There are many negative consequences of opiate use. The worst of those being death.
Strained relationships (divorce, separation and other losses), involvement with the criminal justice system (jail, probation, house arrest), financial issues, job problems or losing a career that one has worked hard for many years, mental health issues (trauma, depression), high risk behaviors and increased exposure resulting in sexually transmitted infections are just some of the many other negative consequences of opiate addiction.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.