On International Opioid Awareness Day, it’s time to act

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Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Accidental overdose of opioids has touched our communities, maybe your family.

In the U.S., more than 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. Two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid.

Opioid is a general name for natural or synthetic drugs that come from or mimic the opium poppy. These include oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone and opium.

Sometimes individuals are prescribed pain medications by a doctor or dentist and become dependent. When their healthcare provider no longer renews the prescription, some patients turn to “borrowing” pills from others, or buying whatever they can to dull their pain.

Opioids produce feelings of relaxation and pleasure while slowing breathing and heart rate.

Using non-prescribed and unregulated opioids can lead to using ever-increasing amounts in order to achieve the desired result. These powerful drugs can slow breathing and heart function to deadly rates.

The American Dental Association urges dental professionals to prescribe alternatives to opioids for pain relief. Dentists may consider prescribing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alone or in combination with acetaminophen over opioids as first-line therapy for acute pain management.

If opioids are prescribed, the limit should be seven days.

The American Public Health Association recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day in order to remember without stigma the persons who died and acknowledge the grief of their family and friends.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.

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