County task force addresses growing opioid epidemic

By Isaiah Freeman

In 2014 Anne Arundel County’s local government declared a state of emergency against heroin. A short time afterwards, the heroin action task force was created to address the growing epidemic of opioid addiction and heroin addiction in Anne Arundel County. The task force is comprised of county resource departments such as the Health Department, Police Department, and the States Attorney’s office.  The goal of the task force is to reduce and address the epidemic.

The Task Force operates by holding meetings todiscuss what is being done to address the epidemic. The offices report their statistics and findings of overdoses across the county while allocating resources to assist other offices in battling the epidemic. The task force is essentially playing catch up because of the prolific availability of prescription pain killers. The growing heroin addiction stems from theuse of painkillers.

In fact, most effective painkillers are opioid narcotics that have the same ingredient that is key to heroin: opium. In essence, painkillers are pharmaceutical grade heroin. To give an example of how opioids can create a problem: often times a doctor will prescribe too many pills to a patient and once that patient is healed they don’t realize that they have become addicted to the pills. Therefore two things happen; the patient continues to take the pills to satisfy their addiction or the patient’s family members (younger sibling, mother, father, cousin who is an addict) obtain the pills and begin to take them for a multitude of reasons.

In today’s America, medicine is viewed as a big business and if you get a prescription from a doctor within 15 minutes of being seen, in quantitative terms, that doctor is doing his or her job. Because of this, opioids and painkillers are being dispensed to people that are in actual pain and those that are not. Pressures for production put doctors in a tough situation because medicinal practices schedule appointments in 15 minute increments. This in turn provides more incentive to give painkillers to any patient that reiterates “I’m in pain,” because the doctor can meet his/her production pressure, and in doing so, make profit. Whether or not the doctor can actually tell if this individual is in actual pain and is not an addict within this time limit is up for strong debate. But keep in mind that doctors are just people who want to help others, and sometimes people take advantage of that precious sentiment.

According to Carol Parreco, who works in the State Attorney’s office, the “availability of prescription pain killers” caused today’s opioid epidemic.

In order to combat this problem close to home, Parreco advises students, teachers, parents, and community leaders to become educated by recognizing that there is an immediate and growing problem in our community. We must also learn to recognize the signs of addiction and how addiction manifests. Attending events like the Not My Childpanel discussion, reiterating to young kids that you don’t take another person’s medicine even if it’s a family members, and putting excess medicine that has served its objective purpose in a drawer under lock and key, are all ways people can combat this threatening epidemic in our homes and in our communities.