The heroin epidemic is a national problem that hits close to home in Anne Arundel County. According to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, heroin-related deaths in the county have increased by 128 percent between 2010 and 2013. The rate of heroin use here is 5.5 percent for youths ages 16 and 17 and 10.7 percent for adults age 18 and older. Both of these numbers are above the averages for the state of Maryland.
The Danger of Opioids
Fueling the epidemic are opioids. Opioids come in two main forms: prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet and illegal drugs like heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is writing new guidelines for physicians to explore other options before prescribing opioids. Still, many people already have a prescription for opioids.
In 2012, doctors wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions. That’s enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills, according to the CDC.
Not everyone who takes opioids gets addicted. However, everyone develops tolerance and some may start to crave these drugs. Opioid use can lead to risk of falls, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, interaction with other medications and potentially fatal overdoses.
Suboxone: A Safe Solution
Quitting opioids “cold turkey” is painful and dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms start around 12 hours after someone stops using opioids. Symptoms can include stomach pain, anxiety, body pain, chills, diarrhea, nausea, sweating, insomnia, weakness and more.
For people dependent on opioids, Suboxone can help. Suboxone is a medication that helps people safely stop opioid use by reducing withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings. The medication also blocks the effects of other opioids.
Suboxone treatment not only allows people to safely withdraw from opioids with little discomfort, it helps manage other health issues related to opioid use. Suboxone treatment also links people with professional counselors. Counselors can help people develop coping skills and behaviors to prevent setbacks. Only qualified, licensed doctors can prescribe Suboxone.
Pathways, Anne Arundel Medical Center’s substance use and mental health treatment center, offers both inpatient and outpatient Suboxone treatment. Both programs begin with a phone call to understand the patient’s needs. Based on the phone call, we recommend either inpatient or outpatient care.
The opioid epidemic is complex, and the solution is not simple. At Pathways, we believe we can begin to turn this public health crisis around by working together with other healthcare professionals, our community partners and our patients.