By Debbie Marvidikis, Southeast Utah Department of Health
Dear Little Cities of Hope Readers: I think it’s been a while since we last had an update on our opioid crisis, and I know most of us remember our little one. city making the news for our loved ones overdosing and dying. And you, like most of us who live and work in our small towns, have said, “That’s enough. We are dying and we have to do something about it.
So I wanted to send you a message and tell you that we have done something about it. Now don’t get me wrong, we have a long way to go, but what we do is making a difference. I want to update you and tell you that our opioid overdose deaths have decreased in our small towns, and that is because we have put many protective and legal factors in place.
This has included working with and educating our community on what opioids are, how easily they can become addictive, and how easily they can kill us. It’s not just in death, but in the destructive power that non-prescription opioid use seems to create wherever they go.
I also wanted to share with you a frightening and potential crisis: illegal fentanyl. Many of us have heard of illegal substances that may contain fentanyl. And maybe, just maybe for a second, we might not have much sympathy for this potential issue. But friends and neighbors: I want to share with you that this is NOT a moral failure. It is a mistake that will take the lives of those we love and take that life too soon.
We find marijuana containing fentanyl, which is not expected. Even an experienced person who uses substances is surprised to find that their marijuana contains fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid. The problem is that our young people who are experimenting will not have the chance to come out of this phase. Let’s be honest, they don’t have a tolerance for fentanyl which is 100 times more potent than morphine. They don’t know their marijuana may contain fentanyl because they don’t expect it to. Like most things in prevention, we start with education, put laws in place, and create solutions to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
We did it with opioids; we changed the prescribing guidelines, insurance companies joined in the fight, and we changed the number of opioids a person really should have to manage their pain. We educate people about an opioid, including what it is and what it will do. We have promoted the “Use Only As Directions” campaign and are providing free Narcan which has saved the lives of many people using opioids.
These are just a few things we were able to accomplish. So if marijuana is mixed with fentanyl then fentanyl education is a great place to start. Tell your friends and family that it may be in some counterfeit marijuana and pills that look like prescriptions. The Southeastern Utah Health Department offers free fentanyl test strips and will teach you how to use them.
There are things we can do to protect ourselves and others from overdoses. First, for people who are using something that was not purchased from a pharmacy or dispensary, it is a good idea to test it with the fentanyl test strips first. Start small, don’t use alone, and make sure you have Narcan on hand.
We can all make a difference, and we have, but we must continue our efforts to keep our loved ones safe! For more information on the opioid crisis and what you can do to help, please contact Debbie Marvidikis at (435) 636-1176.
For resource books for our region, visit extension.usu.edu/heart/community-education-dinner for the online copy.