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Opioid epidemic continues to grow in Monroe County

by Lou Venditti - News Editor
Tue, Sep 26th 2017 10:00 pm

The opioid epidemic continues to take its toll on Monroe County. In a report released by the Monroe County Medical Examiner last Tuesday, it notes that deaths from opium based drugs have almost tripled in the last year, from 85 in 2015 to 206 in 2016. The Monroe County Medical Examiner covers nine other counties, including Steuben and Livingston Counties.

Of the 206 reported deaths from opioid related incidents, 169 deaths occurred in Monroe County alone. Steuben County followed, with 13 deaths from the drug. These deaths can be attributed to heroin, Fentanyl or other opioids and similar substances. In 2015, there were only 69 such deaths in Monroe County. The epidemic continues to grow. In 2011, only 11 opioid related deaths were recorded by the Monroe County Medical Examiner. Just five years later, and the opioid crisis has taken 484 more people.

The epidemic stems from a culmination of factors, according to The College at Brockport’s alcohol and substance abuse studies program coordinator Gary Metz.

“What you have is this perfect storm coming centermass,” Metz said. “People don’t think there’s a risk associated with use, dealers are often selling their wares trying to get people to experiment with non-intravenous initially, leading to addiction, and then the general perception is that if I do overdose, someone will be around to save me. You look at those three factors, and we’re in a perfect storm.”

When Metz says non-intravenous use, he’s referring to the act of “skin popping.” Skin popping is when a drug like heroin is slipped into a cut on the user’s body, as opposed to injecting it directly into the veins. Metz says there’s a big misconception that skin popping doesn’t lead to addiction, yet it does.

“Dealers will try to sell heroin from the standpoint of don't inject it,” Metz said. “[People believe] if you just snort it, or if you do skin popping, you won’t get addicted and won’t get AIDs, and that’s really false information.”

The opioid crisis is perhaps most unique in the demographic of people it affects. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on national health issues, the majority of people dying from opioid overdoses are white. According to Kaiser, 27,056 white, non-Hispanic people died from opioid related causes in 2015, compared to a combined 5,248 in Hispanic and black communities.

According to Metz, heroin addiction can start from prescription drugs painkillers.

“You’ve got this whole group of people who were using opioid medicine that are legitimate users,” Metz said. “Citizens with good jobs and families are now becoming criminalized, entering a drug culture subgroup of criminalized people who are using heroin, and we haven’t even started to think about that population yet.”

There are public resources available for people struggling with opioid addiction. To contribute to the growing field of substance abuse rehabilitation, The college introduced a new major on alcohol and substance abuse, in which Metz acts as program director. The goal of the program is to equip students with the tools they need to go out and aid individuals struggling with substance abuse.

Local law enforcement agencies such as the Rochester Police Department and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office are also getting in on helping opioid addicts. RPD assists addicts with finding treatment, while Orleans County hosts information sessions on the line of drugs. Orleans county is reaching out to parents, students and community members to teach them about drug awareness. Some police departments even provide drug awareness and education for inmates, making it easier for people being released from jail to quell their addictions through official avenues.

It’s quite apparent that opioid addiction is not going anywhere. With death rates rising, one of the best solutions currently is to stay informed and be aware of illicit drugs that are being consumed in our communities.

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