We all must stay vigilant on opioid overdose threat
The staggering number of deaths from opioid overdoses remains a public health crisis and public safety threat, but two decades of fighting this scourge can loosen the resolve and urgency needed.
While fatal opioid overdoses are starting to decrease, the toll is still approximately 150 deaths a day in the U.S. In 2022, fentanyl poisoning was linked to 71,000 of them. Epidemiologists say opioid deaths may have peaked last year and they expect a slow curve down to 2035 when this deadly trend is expected to stop. But that’s too long to wait, too many young Long Island lives to be lost, and too many families to be shattered.
The Biden administration must be aggressive in thwarting illegal trafficking, using diplomatic pressure and sanctions to blunt the power of Mexican syndicates and stop the export of the chemicals from China that are diverted into the manufacturing of illegal fentanyl.
All of us can play a part, too, if we prioritize overdose prevention and heighten awareness that using street drugs carries the heavy risk of fentanyl poisoning. Drug cartels continue to press fentanyl into fake pills that often look like OxyContin, Xanax, Adderall or other common pharmaceuticals young people use. Sometimes the pills are candy-colored and sold as pain killers, but federal authorities say six of 10 contain a lethal dose. Young people, many experimenting with drugs for the first time, have little tolerance of synthetic opioids and are particularly vulnerable. They order the drugs on social media from dealers, often the same age as them, who have been recruited by organized drug rings.
That’s why it's worth repeating Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s announcement last week that the county will have naloxone, also known as Narcan, available in all county buildings and parks. It should be in every school and business, particularly those with public restrooms where drugs are often used, and in places where young adults party. Naloxone nasal spray can reverse an overdose and restore normal breathing within minutes. Blakeman ordered the expanded availability of naloxone at the request of Carole Trottere whose son, Alex Sutton, died in 2018 of a heroin/fentanyl overdose.
It was a poignant reminder that we all must be prepared to confront this crisis and to keep talking about it in our families. "This is a drug that is insidious and is in every neighborhood in every community and we've got to fight it, " Blakeman said.
Trottere says medics who responded to the 911 call were too late to help Alex: "These kids want to party, they think they are using a recreational drug but there is no such thing anymore. Narcan gives them a second chance to keep breathing until help arrives."
Heed their advice. Let's continue to discuss the dangers of drug use and make sure we have available the remedy that can save lives.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.