We Can Fight Opioid Abuse By Raising Awareness, Embracing Responsibility

Susan Pitman, executive director of Drug Free Duval, a community coalition working to prevent and reduce substance abuse in Duval County, discusses the importance of community efforts in preventing the abuse and misuse of prescription opioids in The Florida Times-Union:

Each day brings more news of the opioid epidemic raging across America. It’s touched communities and families across the country and in Duval County.

While many of the tragedies are related to illicit opioids like fentanyl, one key to combating the epidemic is addressing the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids.

More than 40 percent of those who misuse prescription pain relievers obtain the drug for free from a friend or family member. Another 9 percent buy it, and nearly 4 percent steal it from someone they know.

While these prescription medicines are important therapies for many patients suffering with pain, we can take steps to help prevent their abuse and misuse.

That’s why Drug Free Duval joined forces with Allied Against Opioid Abuse to host a recent public education event in Jacksonville. Allied Against Opioid Abuse is a new, national initiative aimed at finding ways to work together to prevent prescription opioid abuse and misuse — and promoting best practices for handling pain medicines.

The reality is that some people now dealing with opioid addiction got their start with doctor prescribed medications. Data shows that one in four people on long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting will ultimately struggle with dependence.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

In tandem with Allied Against Opioid Abuse, we are working to raise awareness about the rights and responsibilities that patients have with prescription opioids.

Patients have rights in the healthcare process, and they should talk with healthcare providers to clarify questions about prescribed pain medicine.

They can discuss whether an opioid is the best option — or if there are non-opioid alternatives.

They can consider only partially filling a prescription to limit the number of pills.

And they can seek help from a family member, friend or patient advocate if they find it difficult to understand the information provided.

We also have responsibilities when it comes to prescription drugs.

It’s important to understand the risks, including side effects, withdrawal symptoms and the possibility of accidental overdose.

And we can decrease unnecessary access to opioids by following simple steps like storing medications in locked cabinets and properly disposing of unused drugs.

The event we hosted with Allied Against Opioid Abuse provided training and educational resources to citizens on safe storage and disposal practices.

To learn more about what you can do, visit www.AgainstOpioidAbuse.org/Act.

By protecting our rights and acting with responsibility, we can all help to end the opioid epidemic.