2017-06-25 / Editorial

Bold, proactive steps necessary to curb drug epidemic

I n Wednesday’s edition of The County Press we published what should be a story troubling to all residents of Lapeer County. The deadly drug carfentanil — 10,000 times stronger than morphine — was recently found on a 34-year-old Attica Township woman during a traffic stop earlier this month.

This is a game changer — and elevates the already epidemic heroin and opioid drug problem to a new level. Mixed with heroin, and sometimes sold in pill form, carfentanil puts Lapeer County residents at greater risk of accidental overdose and death due to the extreme potency of the drug. An amount equal to a few granules the size of grains of table salt can be lethal.

Adverse health effects — disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest, and death — can occur within minutes of exposure.

Lapeer County Undersheriff Jeremy Howe was direct and blunt in announcing the latest danger to our community. “The nightmare is here. It’s no longer if and when, it’s now.”

The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. typically uses “five or six” doses of Narcan every month. Narcan is a drug used to counteract the effects of opioids like heroin. A sign of a carfentanil overdose, said Howe, is when Narcan doesn’t work as intended.

This week’s reporting by The County Press is yet another wake-up call that county residents, law enforcement and medical first responders need to be even more vigilant to spread the word about the dangers of this new deadly drug that may be available to heroin and opioid users.

We will work with law enforcement and the medical community to continue to report on this new emerging drug presence, and advocate for increased awareness in households and in our communities. We urge parents of high school and college-aged children, as well as known adult users and abusers of heroin and opioid pain killers, to have conversations with their loved ones and associates. One dose, one use of a drug mixed with carfentanil can kill a person.

On a related front, we are pleased to report the state Legislature is engaged in fighting the drug epidemic. Doctors would be required to check an electronic monitoring database before prescribing painkillers and other drugs under legislation aimed at preventing opioid addicts from “doctor shopping.”

Senate Bills 166 and 167 won approval Thursday in the Michigan Senate and were sent to the House for consideration.

Michigan’s per capita rate of opioid painkiller prescriptions is the 10th highest in the U.S.

Lawmakers want to limit addicts’ ability to visit multiple doctor’s offices or emergency rooms in a week to get opioid prescriptions. The requirement for health providers to use the recently upgraded Michigan Automated Prescription System would take effect in 2020.

Michigan currently has a system that tracks prescriptions, but many physicians don’t use it properly, or even at all.”

The bills passed Thursday would also limit the amount of opioid medication that can be prescribed and require there to be a “bona fide” prescriber-patient relationship before drugs are dispensed.

In April Michigan received more than $16 million in federal funds to help reduce opioid use and abuse across the state.

The funding was awarded to the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services through the State Targeted Response (STR) to the Opioid Crisis Grant administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The STR grant will be used to promote prevention and increase access to treatment by funding State of Michigan initiatives aimed to curb this health crisis in Lapeer County and across the state.

The heroin and opioid crisis is real and it’s here. Bold and proactive measures must be taken by citizens and community leaders to push back on this epidemic before it claims additional lives and destroys more families in the process.

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