Locals welcome president's effort to reduce drug overdoses - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Locals welcome president's effort to reduce drug overdoses

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Some locals who see the effects of drug use up close applaud President Obama’s efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

In many communities, people go about life with a hidden problem that is capable of killing them.

"The seriousness of drug abuse is at an all-time high. It affects every aspect of a person's life,” said Shondia Jackson, a counselor and clinical services coordinator at the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans, known as CADA.

Jefferson Parish Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich knows well the deadly effects of abusing drugs, be they illicit or prescribed.

"A couple of years ago we had a doubling in Jefferson Parish of opioid deaths, and that actually mirrors the country,” Cvitanovich said.

On Wednesday, President Obama took steps to help drive down opioid pain killer abuse and heroin use in the country. According to a new Centers for Disease Control report, Controlled Substance Prescribing Patterns-Prescription Behavior Surveillance System, Eight States, Louisiana ranked first in opioid prescriptions. Opioids include hydrocodone, morphine and methadone.

The White House says health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid medications in 2012. That's enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills.

"That's a pretty dramatic statistic. I'll give you another dramatic statistic, we've got five percent of the world's population, yet we consume about 80 percent of the opioids in the world,” Cvitanovich said.

According to the Obama administration, more Americans die every year of drug overdoses than in vehicle crashes.

The public-private sector efforts the president announced include: having more than 540,000 health care providers complete opioid prescriber training in the next two years; double the number of providers that prescribe the drug Naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose; double the number of health care providers registered with state prescription drug monitoring programs; and reach more than 4 million health care providers with awareness messaging on opioid abuse and appropriate prescribing practices.

Others are getting involved, as well. The Fraternal Order of Police will provide webinars on overdose signs and prevention for its members.

Also, the NBA, Major League Baseball and national media will run PSAs, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association will educate student athletes about the dangers of prescription drug misuse.

"It's a noble effort by the administration,” Cvitanovich said.

He said in terms of the overdose reversing drug Naxolone, which has the trade name of Narcan, Louisiana is ahead of some other states because of a new law that allows doctors to give prescriptions to family members or close friends of known heroin addicts for emergency use.

"The Narcan pen, which is very similar to the Epi-pen that a lot of people have heard of,” Cvitanovich said.

The federal government said four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain relievers.

“When they can no longer get those medications, they'll frequently switch to heroin,” Cvitanovich said.

"That's the biggest problem. The biggest issue that we're having with prescription drug use and heroin use is that people don't know, people are unaware they have such a direct link to each other,” Jackson said.

And experts say oftentimes many people with serious drug problems end up in the criminal justice system.

"Those go hand-in-hand - having people that are in the substance abuse community who are dealing with substance abuse and addiction issues, it usually leads to criminal justice issues, so we see that revolving door on a regular basis,” Jackson said.

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