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Front Page » March 10, 2009 » Carbon County News » Clinical professional visits several Carbon venues
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Clinical professional visits several Carbon venues

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As the prescription drug problem continues to plague cities and towns all over America, Carbon County has taken a prevention based stance in fighting the problem with federal grant money provided thought the State Prevention Framework States Incentive Grant program at Four Corners Behavioral Health. Their most recent attack on the epidemic came in the form of education provided by Lifetree Medical Director Dr. Lynn Webster, who spoke to eight groups in the local area last week.

Webster educated students, faculty and staff and behavioral health professionals at the College of Eastern Utah; health care providers at Castleview Hospital and the East Carbon Medical Clinic; law enforcement officials in East Carbon; seniors and the Price and East Carbon senior center and the general public.

According to Webster's information, five people are dying per week in Utah from legal prescriptions, mostly long-acting opiates. Additionally, the majority (3/5) are dying within about one month of seeing their physician.

On a local level, Four Corners Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Liz Ferguson, stipulated that in 2005, five individuals died from prescription drug overdose. That number rose to eight in 2007 and while three deaths may seem like a small change it is very significant considering the county's population.

"We have a very high prescription mortality rate per capita in this area," said Ferguson. "And if something is not done for education and prevention things aren't going to get any better."

Dr. Webster explained to all groups some of the reasons why prescription drug deaths are on the rise. He made the following distinctions between their different kinds of misuse:

•Misuse occurs when medical use of a substance for purposes other than directed or indicated is enacted.

•Abuse occurs when any illegal drug is used or when intentional self-administration of a medication for non-medical purposes takes place.

•Addiction is constituted when a primary, chronic, neurobiologic disease characterized by one or more of the following behaviors: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, or continued use despite harm and craving.

Lines drawn by Dr. Webster between illicit and licit use of the medication were defined by the following differences. Where both classifications would swallow or chew the medication, only illicit drug users were defined as those who inject or snort medication that are not designed for this purpose.

The level of Dr. Webster's research is substantial and complex, however, his presentations began with the following simple objectives:

•To understand the prevalence of unintentional overdose deaths.

•To understand the probable causes for unintentional overdose deaths.

•And to understand how to reduce the incidence of unintentional overdose deaths.

His answers to these pressing issues began with a comprehensive educational approach for health care providers, patients, insurers and the general public. Then agencies should begin creating practice guidelines for chronic pain management as well as professional management of abuse, addiction and diversion.

Webster showed data to support the fact that people all over the country had died due to both misuse of the long-acting pain medication methadone and the correct use of it under improper dosage recommendations.

This problem is as serious in Utah as anywhere else in the nation. In 2007, prescription drug deaths surpassed motor vehicle crashes as Utah's leading cause of injury death, totaling 734 poisonings.

Webster recommended following these six guidelines when taking medication to avoid accidental death:

•Never take prescription medication prescribed to another individual.

•Never adjust the doses prescribed by a physician.

•Never mix medications with alcohol.

•Taking opiates with other depressants such as sleep aids or anti-anxiety medication can be dangerous.

•Always keep all prescribed medications in a safe place.

•Always dispose of any unused or expired medications in a fashion that ensures that they can not be used by another individual.

When speaking to seniors, Dr. Webster explained the problems with flushing medication: it creates potential contamination in the sewage systems. He instead recommended that people take the medications and grind them up with coffee grounds, get the mixture wet and throw the remains away in a sealed bag on the day the trash is picked up.

For further information concerning the education and prevention of this nationwide epidemic contact Four Corners at 637-2358.

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