What is being done about Idaho's opioid epidemic?

The numbers of drug-induced deaths in Idaho is on the rise. In 2016, deaths caused by synthetic Opioids, or painkillers, jumped 69 percent. (File Photo)

The numbers of drug-induced deaths in Idaho is on the rise. In 2016, deaths caused by synthetic Opioids, or painkillers, jumped 69 percent.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says from 2010 to 2014... nearly half of accidental drug deaths in Idaho were overdoses from some type of Opioid.

Last year, Idaho received a grant from the federal government to raise awareness and launch a prescription drug abuse treatment program called "Idaho Response to the Opioid Crisis."

"Addiction is truly a disease. It is no different than heart disease. Or diabetes. People who suffer from addiction don't choose to have that disease. People with addiction can't just stop."

Rosie Andueza, with the Division of Behavioral Health says, people who you generally wouldn't think would be addicts could be the victim of an Opioid addiction.

"This one doesn't take long to get addicted to. We see housewives, we see elderly, we see children with accidental overdoses getting involved with this," said Andueza.

Just one medical incident can lead someone down an addictive path.

"So they may have had an injury that required a surgery. Part of the post op is pain relief and during that time many people, here in Idaho and across the country, become addicted," said Andueza.

The stigma of addiction can sometimes stop someone from seeking help. To specialist, the stigma is all due to the misunderstanding of what's behind their behavior.

"People with diabetes, they sometimes don't follow their regimen, sometimes they fall off and the doctor never says 'I'm sorry you didn't do what i told you to do so I'm not going to help you anymore. Sometimes we see that in addiction, 'I'm sorry you relapsed I'm done'. Addiction is no different," said Andueza.

Part of the Idaho's Reponse to the Opioid Crisis, also known as the IROC, is two-fold.

"We believe that treatment is both the medication and also the therapy. There's both that needs to happen," said Andueza.

The office of drug policy has also chimed in to the epidemic by providing Naloxone.

"Naloxone is the anti-overdose reversal drug and they've been providing that via grant application to first responders targeting rural Idaho," said Andueza.

Over 1,600 kits have already been distributed statewide.

Now, doctors are being educated on new C-D-C guidelines for prescribing Opioids and how to safely treat patients for pain. For example, prescribing the smallest dosage possible and for the shortest amount of time.

"The prescribers that we are educating we are trying to make sure that they understand that if possible to not prescribe Opioids. Sometimes other pain medications are just as effective," said Dr. Christine Hahn, Medical Director, Idaho Division of Public Health.

The job of the prescriber is to make the patient aware *before* writing the prescription, including educating the patient on the drug, the risks and alteratives for relief.

"Some types of pain, if you break a bone, you have a surgery certainly opioids are the most effective appropriate immediate treatment and can rapidly reduce pain in that emergency situation. But for some types of other chronic pain, longstanding pain there are medications including everything from Tylenol to other milder medications that can sometimes do just as good a job," said Dr. Hahn.

The IROC is still in its first stages. But the department of behavioral health says it's already seeing results. For example, the department says equipping first responders with Naloxone has already saved lives.

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