Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, and and 75% of drug overdoses involve an opioid. There are 250 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. every day. Opioid and stimulant abuse, further compounded by a recent influx of illegal fentanyl, has created a public health crisis throughout our community.
WHAT IS AN OPIOID?
An opioid is any pain relieving medication or drug (Vicodin, Norco, fentanyl, heroin, etc.) that resembles morphine in its physiological or pharmacological effects. Opioids are naturally occurring compounds derived from the poppy flower, or can be manufactured synthetically.
Prescription opioids are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, but have a high potential for misuse and abuse. The effects of opioids include drowsiness, euphoria, and slowed breathing. Due to the effects that opioids have on the nervous system, over-consumption of these substances can lead to fatal complications.
ARE OPIOIDS A PROBLEM IN MENDOCINO COUNTY?
Unfortunately, yes. The rate of opioid overdoses in our county is 3 times higher than California’s average. In 2021 alone, 47 individuals lost their lives due to a preventable opioid overdose in Mendocino County.
WHAT IS A psychostimulant?
A psychostimulant is a type of drug that is often used medically to treat depression or attention-deficit disorder. Similarly to opioids, stimulants affect the central nervous system but have very different effects in comparison. While opioids will slow heart rate and cause drowsiness; psychostimulants stimulate the nervous system, causing the user to feel more alert, energized and excited. Psychostimulant misuse can lead to paranoia, anxiety and seizures. It is possible to overdose on psychostimulants and suffer from heart and/or nerve complications that can be fatal.
Commonly misused stimulants include methamphetamine, cocaine, Adderall, Ritalin and MDMA. People will often use stimulants in conjunction with opioids to offset the negative side effects, also known as “speedballing”. Stimulants will not combat an opioid overdose and can actually increase the risk of further complications when used concurrently.
Remember: Stimulant overdoses cannot be reversed and can be fatal.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Drug abuse and overdose is preventable. There are many easy ways for community members to help fight the opioid epidemic in Mendocino County. Things you can do today to help curb the opioid epidemic:
- Safely dispose of any unused or unwanted prescription medications in your home at a community medication disposal box near you.
- Lock up your prescription medication in a cabinet or drawer. Or get a free medication lock bag!
- If prescribed an opioid, talk to your doctor about proper dosing and potential side effects.
- Get Naloxone for yourself or family or friends who use opioids.
- Know the signs of overdose and how to respond to save a life.
- Get fentanyl test strips. Contact us at 707-472-2332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from Ventura County Behavioral Health / www.venturacountyresponds.org