An Epidemic Spreading like Wildfire

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opioidNORTHEAST KINGDOM - There is no denying that the opioid epidemic is an issue across the nation. Though the problem may be very present in the street, it has been deeply rooted within the medical field. Medical professionals treating chronically ill patients have the obligation to prescribe but monitor doses of narcotic pain medication in a way that does not result in addiction. According to Stefanie Sigmund, APRN, there is a lot that goes into treating a patient's pain.

"As a provider I try to remember that this is ongoing monitoring management of pain and pain medications. Patients want them filled in a timely manor but its our responsibility to make sure that their dose is correct and filled appropriately."

Many times, the intended uses of these prescription medications are not followed. Whether the addiction begins with recreational use or prescribed pain treatment, there is great risk that this addiction could result in overdoses within a community. Lyndon Rescue First Responder Jillian McLaughlin has seen an increase of overdoses in just a year's time.

"In 2017 we had fourteen calls for overdoses and our crews gave Narcan seven times...and in 2018 we had twenty-three calls and had administered Narcan fourteen times so there was a slight increase between those two years."

The Northeast Kingdom is showing efforts to address the opioid epidemic. National drug takeback day is recognized in the area to keep exposure to narcotic medication at bay. Local pharmacies and sheriffs' offices allot a window of time where community members can safely dispose of any unwanted medication. Saint Johnsbury Kinney Drug's Pharmacist Adam Kuzmeskus spent his Drug Take Back Day sorting out patient's old medications.

"By taking these meds off the streets we're reducing the exposure, we're also limiting people having first contact with these medications. Often when people are exposed to opioids, it is from a family's medication and something that has not been used but is lying around. It's more curiosity that gets them involved."

People get their hands on these narcotics in other ways than getting a script from a medical professional. It is common that these prescription medications are sold on the streets. Local law enforcement agencies like the Saint Johnsbury Police Department are doing their best to intercept the selling of these drugs.

Saint Johnsbury Police Chief Timothy Page says they're always looking for those who are selling these drugs on the street corners as well as trying to infiltrate bigger dealers. Unfortunately, many police departments like Saint Johnsbury's do not have the funding to specifically address the issue.

Recognition of the opioid epidemic is rising across the nation and certainly in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Although certain steps have been taken to put a stop to this issue, there is still a lot of work to do.