Let’s Unite to Solve Opioid Abuse

Every day, 115 Americans die from an overdose involving either prescription or illicit opioids. Virtually no one has been untouched by the opioid addiction crisis. It has become one of Pinellas County’s most pressing health issues. It will take a village to solve this problem — and community efforts to prevent opioid abuse will be most effective if we all join forces to share information and solutions.

That’s why Sunstar Paramedics recently hosted a roundtable discussion organized by Allied Against Opioid Abuse, a new, national opioid education initiative. The event brought together Pinellas County community leaders to address opioid abuse and misuse, including the business community, health-care advocacy, first responders and medical professionals like pain management practitioners and osteopathic physicians.

As first responders, we save lives every day — but we also need to consider what comes next for the overdose patients we save. This opportunity to learn how other sectors of the community are addressing prescription opioid abuse gave us a broader view of the recovery and prevention resources available to patients once they leave our ambulance.

Studies show that more than 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2016. Of those, approximately 40 percent obtained them from a friend or relative. We can all take steps to combat this problem, like ensuring that prescription medicines are safely stored, and any leftover or expired medicines are properly disposed.

Check your medicine cabinet. Are there any prescription pain medicines? If you’re no longer dealing with the issue for which these pills were originally prescribed, dispose of them as soon as possible so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. And, please, never give them to friends or family.

For more information on how to safely store and properly dispose of opioid medications, including local drop-off locations for unused medicines, visit AgainstOpioidAbuse.org.

As Pinellas County’s emergency medical transport provider, we believe that everyone in Tampa Bay can be part of the solution — because only by coming together can we address this crisis once and for all.

This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times.