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Opioid panel held Monday

By Staff | Dec 15, 2017

Opioid abuse is on the rise in the United States and Rugby, ND is no exception. The Heart of America Medical Center, Rugby EMS, and the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center believe it is important to get real information into the hands of our youth and families to combat and prevent this problem. These drugs are available by prescription and can fall into the wrong hands.

On December 11, Rugby High School staff along with the Heart of America Medical Center, Rugby EMS, and Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center met at RHS to visit with students and answer questions they may have about opioids and other drugs. The panel consisted of four members: Mike Graner, HACTC administrator; Ashley Kremer, MD, HAMC; Erik Christenson, HAMC pharmacy director; and Samantha Wentz, Pierce County Health Nurse.

Prior to the high school visit, students had the opportunity to submit questions anonymously. There was a discussion between the panel and the students. Tough questions were answered and discussed. Questions were varied but a few asked “why this, and why now?”

The panel addressed why the change in recent drug useage in the country. In the past, methamphetamines were the drug of choice for 16-18 year olds. Now opioids, basically prescription painkillers, have taken their place. One thing Christenson said “Legitimate prescription holders, are not disposing of prescription medications when they are done with their illness. The unused medication should be disposed of properly, and destroyed by professionals trained to do so. This keeps it out of the hands of others.”

Drug users are changing their drug of choice from opioids to heroin and fentanyl. The problem with this opioid drug is the cost, which has driven up the use of heroin, which is a cheaper drug.

Another question from the students to the panel, Why this conversation now? It is because heroin is the new drug of choice and it is being mixed with fentanyl, which is a drug used in anesthesia and it is easily transmitted through the skin. This drug can suppress respiratory control which causes death. This drug also can be a danger to law enforcement and medical staff because they can become exposed during treatment of an overdose. “Fentanyl causes respiratory failure, addiction quickly, it can even the first time, and it can effect first responders if exposed to the drug during treatment or arrest,” said Graner.

For parents and the community Monday night, Heart of America Medical Center showed the video “Chasing the Dragon” at Fox Auditorium. This video was put together by the former FBI Director James Comey and the DEA and presents a current view of opioid addiction.

After the video, a discussion was held about the kids thoughts and questions. These conversations hopefully will prompt family discussions; and provide resources for help. If parents need help, the the panel’s organizations can provide resource recommendations. Brochures and materials were available for parents. Blue Boxes are available for deposits of old prescriptions. The panel encouraged adults to go through their medications and dispose of all no longer needed. Medications that are not opioids are dangerous as well. “Throw out all medications not currently needed,” stressed Christenson.

Parents and family members were encouraged to dispose of opioid medications such as Oxycontin and other opiates as soon as possible, after using the prescription medication. Blue boxes are provided for disposal around the community at pharmacies and at HAMC. It is important the panel stressed that medications not be saved but rather disposed of and unavailable.

A discussion of removing shame about drug addiction was held. Less shame and guilt will help students come forward and ask for help. This addiction happens to normal kids, all kids, and many people with illnesses. As a community we can work together to protect everyone.

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