Painkillers can be a blessing, but also a curse

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Modern painkillers can be a godsend if you’re experiencing post-surgical pain or a toothache for a few days until you can get in to see a dentist.

It’s too easy to get addicted to opioids and others, however, and it’s actually considered abuse for someone other than the person for whom they were subscribed to use them.

“Many people who abuse prescription drugs get them from their friends or relatives,” Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said. “This is why disposing of unused prescription drugs is so important.”

Every year, more than 289 million prescriptions are written for painkillers in the United States, and addiction, emergency room visits and overdose deaths are at an epidemic level.

Peterson is encouraging Nebraskans to be sure to properly dispose of prescription drugs during this, Drug Overdose Awareness Week.

Every day is take back day in Nebraska, he said, and you can find out how by checking with your pharmacy or visit leftovermeds.com

While abuse of common opioids is dangerous to the general public, those and other more powerful versions like fentanyl, carfentanil or heroin, offer an even higher risk to police officers who may encounter them in the course of their duties.

An anonymous donor has come to the aid of the Omaha Police Department, providing $10,000 for 150 naloxone kits to help protect officers from accidental opioid overdose.

They will be given to all police dog handlers and distributed among patrol officers, detectives and school resource officers.

The two-dose nasal spray is used immediately if an officer suspects exposure to one of the powerful drugs.

“There’s a limited number of minutes before they have brain damage,” said Ally Dering-Anderson, a clinical associate pharmacy professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “You have to stop this process immediately, and police will have in their pocket the ability to do that.”

Nebraska actually lags much of the nation in the number of opioid prescriptions, especially southern states, but it’s a growing problem.

Nationwide, more than 33,000 people died from drug overdoses involving opioids in 2015, and the rate is still increasing, according to preliminary data for the first three-quarters of 2016.

The Nebraska State Patrol purchased about 100 kits for its K-9 division, investigators and crime lab units but has not needed to use any of them, yet.

Other local agencies carry naxolone or soon will, and we hope they never have to use it, but it’s good to know it’s available.

Meanwhile, we as private citizens can do our part to make sure prescription opioids don’t fall into the wrong hands, and report suspected sales of the more dangerous illegal drugs.

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