Two physicians, who are trying to combat the opioid crisis and the overprescribing of unnecessary drugs, spoke to a crowd of several dozen concerned citizens on Oct. 26, in a forum put on by the Mountain Top Rotary Club.
“It’s for education and prevention,” Jo Gulvas, president of the local Rotary Club, related earlier. “We need to get people educated and, in doing that, we’re helping our community.” With opioid drug abuse and deaths on the rise, the Rotary decided to host the program at the Crestwood Secondary Campus so that residents would not only become educated about opioid abuse, but be able to question two knowledgeable physicians about the epidemic.
Both from the Lehigh Valley Health Network, Dr. Robert Cannon explained what opioids are and how they became so widespread and destructive, while Dr. Kevin McNeill spoke about how the medical community is responding to the crisis. They each gave statistics and showed several line graphs throughout their talks, indicating disturbing truths about how opioid use, abuse, addiction, and deaths have dramatically risen over the past two decades. Outside the Crestwood auditorium, several informational booths were also set up, lending those in attendance resources on addiction and related services.
Opioids are synthetic or partly-synthetic, that is, created in a lab with chemicals, and are pills like oxycodone and hydrocodone, used to treat pain relief. Related to opioids are opiates, which are made from poppy plants and include morphine, codeine, and heroin.
While people have nerve cells in their bodies to detect pain, Cannon explained, opioids find the receptor that causes pain and puts it to sleep, reducing or eliminating pain. The use of opioids for pain relief is flawed, however, because when the drug is used to stop the receptor multiple times, the body develops a tolerance, making the need for higher doses and actually making the pain felt greater. The user also often goes through withdrawal symptoms when stopping opioids.
Further, the difference between the