Texas health professionals concerned about rise in accidental opioid deaths

Overdose deaths are thought to be almost 5,000 annually and the data between 2020 and 2021 showed around a 32% increase.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 11:14 PM CDT
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BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Physicians across the Lone Star state are alarmed by what they call a sharp spike in accidental overdose death fueled by illegal drugs.

Representatives from the Texas Medical Association say a surge in accidental opioid overdose deaths in Texas is showing no signs of slowing down. Texas physicians warn the rise in illegally produced drugs laced with fentanyl is to blame.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 5,000 Texans have died because of a drug overdose, an increase of 18% from one year ago. That increase comes as there is a 44% decline in opioid prescriptions.

Dr. Max Eckman is a member of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) and president of the Texas Pain Society. He says one opioid overdose is one too many and it’s going to take a community effort to reverse course. Eckman says the root problems are illegal fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

“The deaths from that increased 82% year-over-year and reflect the largest single source of deaths. So that has us very concerned and speaks to a growing problem,” said Eckman.

Medical professionals have a two-tier approach to solving the opioid problem. The first step they say is to increase the use of life-saving, overdose-reversing drugs like Naloxone.

Joy Alonzo is an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. She wants people to understand the risk of taking drugs.

“Fentanyl is an ultra-potent opioid. It is anywhere from 50 to 150 times more potent than morphine,” said Alonzo.

Alonzo says just like everyone should be trained in CPR, everyone should know how to administer overdose-reversing drugs like Naloxone.

“Even though fentanyl is an ultra-potent opioid, Naloxone will work to reverse these overdoses,” said Alonzo. “It’s not treatment, but it’s the first step in keeping somebody alive.”

Medical professionals would like to see a greater focus on treatment and rehabilitation. Taylor Johnson is the admission director for More than Rehab Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in College Station. He says opioid addiction is not a battle you should try and fight alone.

“Your entire makeup, your body, your brain is convinced that you need to continue to take this drug when in reality you don’t. You’re simply abusing it because for you to come off of it is excruciatingly painful without a medically-assisted detox,” said Johnson.

Alonzo would like to see every Texan learn how to use Naloxone and have direct access to it.

“You put it in somebody’s nose and watch this. (opens top to bottle, pushed upward) I just saved somebody’s life. That’s all it takes,” said Alonzo. “I would like every single citizen in the state of Texas to have a Naloxone rescue kit and know how to use it.”

Narcan/Naloxone is available to everyone in Texas. it can be found at any pharmacy.

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Posted by Texas Medical Association on Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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