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Chat Puts Spotlight on Opioid Crisis Posted: December 7, 2018

The epidemic of opioid addiction and deaths took center stage during the latest #OurDocTalk with NorthBay Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Seth Kaufman, M.D.

Some 1,500 young adults misuse opioids daily in the United States, Dr. Kaufman explained during the live streaming video chat on the NorthBay Facebook page. "Half of them obtained these medications from family or friends, and along with that, 20 percent of young deaths are opioid related," he said. OurDocTalk logo

In addition to such sobering statistics, Dr. Kaufman explained what opioids are and how they are supposed to be used as well as how they are often misused. The pain relief medications can be highly addictive and require care in prescribing and use.

"When you are talking acute and chronic pain, it's about relieving pain but the ultimate goal is to get the problem solved so the patient can be functional again and that's where opioids can cause a problem," he explained, "because they don't necessarily improve function. They can in the short term, but as you use them it requires higher and higher doses. In the long term is where you develop tolerance and the potential for addictions and they don't necessarily help function when you get that far out (in time)."

Opioid medications are not a cure, but rather a pain reliever to be used for a certain time, he added.

The crisis in the country comes from people overusing the drugs, or using them recreationally or in combination with other pain relievers.

"They are very effective for short-term pain relief, but the side effect is slowing your breathing down and if you overdose, you can stop breathing. We see this with accidental overdoses or when they are combined with other things and in recreational drug use where they are using it to get high and use too much," Dr. Kaufman said.

He emphasized that anyone can develop an addiction issue with opioids.

"These medications can cause a chemical addiction. Over time, they change the receptors in the body so everyone is at risk of addiction," he said.

He added that knowing the signs of addiction is important. If someone is not as functional as they once were, or stops showing up for work or school or social gatherings or experience an escalation in the need for the drug, wanting more and more pills, these are warning signs, he noted.

Solano County is not immune to the problem, he added. "We are not necessarily worse than other counties in the country but we are not necessarily better, either," he said. "We definitely have work ahead of us."

He said Solano has a lot of resources locally for addiction treatment and he encouraged those who are prescribed opioids or who are taking the drugs to become as educated as possible by talking with their doctor and researching on CDC.gov.

And he added that anyone with these drugs in their home, should take steps to secure them in a locked cabinet. "You don't want children to get ahold of this and you don't want anyone but you taking your prescriptions," he said.