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Southern Maryland Making Changes To Curb Their Opiate and Heroin Epidemic

Southern Maryland is facing the same drug problems that the rest of the country is facing. Prescription painkiller and heroin addiction is ravaging communities like never before. A panel made up of addiction and substance abuse professionals gathered together on January 28th, 2014 to discuss the drug issues they are dealing with.  Many questions were directed to the panel by the Calvert County Commissioners. The Commissioners were very interested in learning what the panelists were doing to help curb the opiate problems faced by the county. The panel was made up of Calvert County Public Schools Larry Titus, Calvert Fire Department Advanced Life Support Chris Shannon and Steve Stanton, Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans, Calvert Memorial Hospital Emergency Room Dr. Fulton Lukban, Calvert Substance Abuse Director Dr. Roe Rodgers, Department of Social Services Amye Scrivener, Health Department Director Dr. Laurence Polsky and Calvert County State's Attorney Laura Martin.

The panel explained that the idea of a drug addict has changed during the past 10 years. Drug addicts are no longer stereotypical poor, inner-city users.  Drugs have made there way into every town across the US and it has affected people of all social and economical backgrounds. They noted that many business people, college students, professionals and housewives are on a large list of people addicted to opiates. You can not simply look at a person and know if they have a serious addiction to pills. They addict may seem they have it all together up until they reach their breaking point.

The majority of heroin and opiate users start with prescription painkillers. Over time their tolerance builds and it takes higher dosages for the user to feel the effects. The prices of pills climb and the addiction becomes more of a burden on their finances and lifestyle. People with more money can hide this fact but eventually it catches up with everyone. If the person is unwilling to stop because of the hefty financial price, they may instead turn to using heroin. This transition is very normal in the progression of an opiate addict. The user may start with snorting heroin and ultimately lead to shooting the drug intravenously. Shooting heroin via IV causes the quickest, most powerful high but this high does not last long. Multiple bags of heroin a day are shot by many addicts in order to keep the euphoric feeling high.  Every bag a heroin user shoots is potentially life threatening. Heroin quality and potency varies from bag to bag, and even though the bags come from the same dealers, one bag could be 10 times stronger than the next. This is why heroin overdose is very common.

Chief Chris Shannon of Calvert Advanced Life Support explained that paramedics had administered the drug Narcan (Naloxone) 79 times to patients who had overdosed in 2013. Narcan is a drug that stops overdoses immediately and helps to saves lives. It has become a drug that has been added to most first responders kits around the country. The drug is cheap and works if administered early enough during the overdose.

I'm very happy to see that Calvert County is taking initiative in curbing the opiate epidemic in their county. Panels like this one should be organized in every county in the United States. Using professionals, working together to educate the public and county officials in outstanding. It teaches the different aspects of the issue and helps our local governments create programs to help more people and save lives.

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