Fact: In 2017, 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses and two-thirds were linked to opioids. Two deaths a day occur in Alabama due to an overdose. Alabama has the highest number of opioid prescriptions per person than any other state!
Almost everyone in Alabama knows someone whose family has been impacted by opioid addiction or an overdose. As a prosecutor and nurse I know we cannot prosecute our way out of this crisis. It will require a multi-discipline approach of prevention through education, medication-assisted treatment, and law enforcement.
Research shows that 40% of people who take opioids for more than 30 days become addicted. I’m proud to have successfully advocated for mandatory controlled substance prescribing education for physicians starting January 1, 2018, and mandatory checks that trigger the Alabama Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database in order to combat doctor shopping and drug diversion.
If we do not make a positive impact now, we can expect an increase in ‘pills to needles’ abuse. Heroin addiction will continue to rise as well because the DEA links 80% of heroin addiction to prescription drug abuse. Fentanyl deaths will continue to rise. There were 247 drug overdoses in Jefferson County, Alabama alone in 2016, an increase of 12% over 2015. The trend in this public health issue is alarming and touches people of all ages, but especially people in their 30-50s, which yields a lot of ‘collateral damage’ with the number of children impacted.