Cathy Harper shares her perspective on Relapse and Overdose
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio –
In April of 2020 I wrote an article on relapse after our oldest son began using Heroin after 10 years of abstinence. Although it has been hard to share his addiction story, I felt then, and still feel now, that those in the trenches with their loved ones need to know they are not alone. Those living with mental illness and/or addiction have a very powerful story to share; a story that may save someone’s life. These are stories of hope, even when it feels hopeless.
During the COVID 19 pandemic we have continued to experience an epidemic within a pandemic, with overdose and suicide rates increasing. According to the CDC “over 81,000 overdose deaths occurred in the US in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12 month period. The latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.”
Anxiety, feelings of helplessness have also contributed to increased drug use and suicide rates. Sepsis and endocarditis deaths have increased during the pandemic as people struggling with mental illness and addiction may not be accessing health care and when they finally do it may be too late. My son was hospitalized for 2 rounds of sepsis and endocarditis, an infection around his heart, just days before his fatal overdose.
The CDC recommends 5 key strategies to prevent drug misuse, overdoses and death: using data to monitor emerging trends and enhance prevention; work with providers and health systems to reduce unsafe exposure to opioids and treat addiction; strengthen state and local capacity to respond to this epidemic; coordinate with public safety and community-based partners to rapidly identify overdose threats, reverse overdoses, link people to EFFECTIVE treatment and reduce harms associated with illicit opioids and finally increase public awareness about the risks.
We can all play a role; not all overdoses have to end in death. Learn about the risks; learn about Naloxone (NARCAN), its availability and how to use it. Help those struggling find the right care and treatment. Learn about the CDC’s overdose surveillance and prevention efforts in our community. Learn more about what may help if you or someone you love is increasing drug use during our COVID 19 pandemic.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has seen some success with emergency department administered high-dose buprenorphine, a food and drug approved medication to treat opioid disorder. This approach helps with withdrawal and allows underserved populations to seek outpatient services in commonly encountered delays in access to follow up care. This is promising and data may give us hope.
My son lost his battle with addiction 1/31/21. My hope is that by sharing his story his death will not be in vain.
The Right Path for Washington County and the Washington County Health Board are hosting a National Overdose and National Grief Awareness Walk on Saturday August 28. We will gather on the corner of East Muskingum Park next to the Putnam Street Bridge at 9 am. We will walk across the bridge, down Gilman Avenue, across the Washington Street Bridge and back. The Washington County Health Department’s Project DAWN will be on hand with Naloxone kits (NARCAN) and how to use it to save lives. Far too many lives have been lost to overdose, this epidemic inside the pandemic. No Mother should lose her Son to overdose; so preventable. I know; Jason’s Mom 1/31/21 #4everbroken.
Please join us and share a picture or memory of your loved one! Say Their Name.