Opioid addiction is increasing drastically in North Florida — so what can we do?

About 70 percent of children removed from their homes in Northeast Florida are removed because of a substance abuse issue. Opioids specifically are becoming a larger and more prevalent problem for First Coast families, resulting in more children being removed from their homes and coming into foster care.

And the community is taking notice. In early September, FSS partnered with Drug Free Duval to host a community workshop on the rise of opioid addiction. Training facilitators were Richard Preston and Terri Gnann who are both recovering addicts.

Terri Gnann, left, and Richard Preston led the opioid misuse training at FSS Sept. 5.

Attendees learned how to identify signs of opioid misuse, properly dispose of prescription drugs and administer life-saving Naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdoses.

Below are summaries of the full presentations on each topic. We encourage you to learn more about this deadly trend affecting our community’s health by visiting the Drug Free Duval website. And if you would like to receive this training, please contact Samantha Gaulden at sg871@nova.edu.

Signs of Opioid Misuse
Legally prescribed opioids include morphine, codeine and oxycodone; illegal opioids include heroin and synthetic fentanyl. Once an individual begins misusing the drugs, they may exhibit signs of anxiety and depression, mood swings, drowsiness, poor memory and concentration, slowed breathing and reduced social interactions.

To support their addiction, individuals misusing opioids will likely begin spending all the money they have on drugs, neglecting bills and other necessary items. They may steal from family or friends or commit other illegal acts to get money for drugs, and they may acquire a whole new set of friends who are all drug users.

While legally prescribed opioids are consumed orally, other methods of opioid consumption include snorting, smoking and intravenous injection. Those injecting opioids intravenously are likely to wear long-sleeved clothing to cover injection marks, even in hot weather.

Safe Storage and Disposal of Prescription Drugs
Commonly abused and potentially lethal drugs such as painkillers (Oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, Hydrocodone) and benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax) need to be treated with extreme caution. Once you are in possession of a prescription drug, you accept the responsibility of the prescribed use and storage.

Seventy percent of people 12 and older who abuse prescription drugs say they got them from a friend or relative — either free, purchased or by theft.

Prescriptions should ideally be kept in a safe lock-box while you’re still taking the prescribed amount. Be sure to count your pills when you pick up your prescription and frequently after that to be sure none go missing.

Once you’ve finished taking prescription drugs, you should dispose of them properly through a DEA Pill Take-Back program, designated dropbox locations or in designated prescription disposal bags.

If you can’t access any of these options, remove personal information from the prescription label and add water to solid pills. Also, add a non-toxic and unpalatable substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter to the container. Seal the container with duct tape and place inside a second unmarked container, then place in the trash.

Never flush prescriptions down the toilet or drain. They can have harmful effects on our water systems and the animals who inhabit them.

Naloxone 101
With opioid deaths on the rise in our region, the North Florida Rx and Heroin Task Force is working hard to provide resources and spread information throughout the community, including what to do in the event of an overdose.

Preston takes questions from the audience

911 Good Samaritan Act: In half of all overdose cases, an individual is at the scene who can intervene, but they don’t call 911 for fear of arrest or police involvement. The 911 Good Samaritan Act protects the person who calls 911 from being charged, prosecuted or penalized for possession of controlled substances (if found as a result of seeking emergency medical care).

Florida Naloxone Law: Naloxone/Narcan is a life-saving nasal inhalant that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A law passed in 2015 allows authorized healthcare practitioners to prescribe Naloxone to anyone at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid-related overdose.

Additionally, emergency responders and laypersons in the community can possess, store and administer naloxone to someone believed in good faith to be experiencing an opioid overdose.

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