Wheeler hosts info session on opioids

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Plainville’s Wheeler Clinic Connecticut Clearing House hosted an informational presentation on opioids and naloxone, “What Community Members Need to Know,” on April 12.

The program is offered on the second Thursday of each month, free and open to the community.

“This is a very prevalent problem in Connecticut, and it is across all ages, socioeconomic groups and cultures,” said Aisha Hamid, program manager. “There is no discrimination.”

Opioids are a class of drugs that are illicit in the form of heroin, and licit in the form of a prescription pain reliever.

Hamid explained how the over-prescribing of pain relievers by physicians can be detrimental and lead to an addiction. One pain reliever pill can go from $30 to $50. When use of pain relievers becomes too expensive to afford, oftentimes people will switch to heroin.

Unused medications become problematic as well, leaving open the opportunity that the patient or someone else will access them.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, drug overdose death rates in Connecticut are statistically higher than the national rate, and it is climbing. In 2015, there were 723 reported accidental overdose deaths in Connecticut. In 2016 that climbed to 917, and last year, to 1,038 deaths.

Hamid said young adults ages 18 to 25 use opioids at higher rates, but anyone who can potentially access unsecured medications is at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, has guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Before prescribing, start with other pain relief options such as Tylenol or hot and cold packs. Set realistic goals for pain and function as well as discussing the risks and benefits or opioids. Additionally, start with a small dose, and use “immediate release” medication to prevent from taking a second dose before it has kicked in.

Prescribers are to regularly assess risks and benefits, check the prescription drug monitoring program for a database of a patient’s medication dispenses, and arrange for methadone or suboxone for those who develop opioid-use disorder.

“These steps are designed so the patient knows what they are taking home and can make an informed decision,” said Hamid.

During an opioid overdose, the automatic drive to breathe is diminished. People die from a lack of oxygen over a one to three hour period. Narcan steals the spot of the opioid in the brain receptor for 30 to 90 minutes, so breathing can resume.

Connecticut Clearinghouse is a library and resource center program of Wheeler Clinic, funded by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. They are open to all ages and are state-wide.

The facility will be hosting an open house on Thursday, May 10 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the clearinghouse located at 334 Farmington Ave. Call (860) 793-9791 or visit ctclearinghouse.org for more information.