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Carbon hosts substance abuse trifecta

Dr. Kim Bateman discusses the dangers of prescription drug overdose with area doctors. Bateman focused on the extreme dangers of methadone.

Sun Advocate community editor

Carbon and Emery families, professionals, counselors, physicians, pharmacists and technicians gathered Tuesday to learn about the increase risk the community faces due to prescription drugs and methamphetamine abuse.

The event was sponsored by Four Corners Behavioral Health and logistically supported by the Business Expansion and Retention Project.

The first session at the county events center focused on families and the issues they may face when substance abuse enters the home.

The participants at the conference were welcomed by Jay Jeppson, the clinical director at Four Corners, followed by parenting and peer education via film, speakers and a detailed presentation by Glen Hanson of the Utah Addiction Center.

Hanson focused his presentation on meth, but emphasized that the illicit drug's stresses on the body and mind are mimicked by the use of most mind altering substances.

"We need to realize that these substances have similar trends, that their neurotoxicity and long term effects can be nearly the same," explained Hanson. "We see a lot of poly-substance abuse with meth addiction. When using this drug, a lot of addicts tend to mix and match."

According to his Powerpoint presentation, meth is the number one illegal drug of choice for Utahns admitted to public substance abuse treatment programs.

Methamphetamine is the primary drug of choice for women and 47 percent of the females in treatment have children.

The drug's prevalence in the criminal justice system is staggering as 45 percent of females and 28 percent of males housed in correction facilities report having a meth problem.

While national, state and local authorities have come down hard on meth production within the United States, the supply has been replaced by Mexican forms that are both purer and more potent.

A session for professionals and counselors followed.

Later in the day, the professionals learned about prescription pain medication misuse from Kevin Wyatt, a criminal investigator for the state and Lana Taylor the Utah Assistant Attorney General.

The conference was capped by an appreciation dinner for area physicians, pharmacists and technicians who heard from Dr. Kim Bateman about Utah's rising death rate due to prescription drug overdose and abuse.

In 2003, prescription drug deaths surpassed motor vehicle crashes as Utah's leading cause of injury death, according to Bateman.

His presentation, sanction by the Use Only as Directed program, an online source for prescription abuse and overdose information, reported that six people are dying per week in Utah from legal prescriptions, mostly long-acting opioid.

"Two people die per week of an opioid prescribed legally within the preceding month," continued Bateman. "And methadone has become one of the leading killers."

While methadone was once thought of and used primarily to treat opioid addiction, it is now readily used for chronic pain treatment, he said.

"What happened is that we reached the point where more and more people were receiving opiates for their long term pain and then doctors and patients were priced out of the market by most long acting opiates because of prescription costs," explained Bateman. "So because methadone is cheap and works for a long period of time physicians began prescribing it for analgesia rather than addiction."

However, while methadone can work for pain management, Bateman stressed that it is a dangerous drug and must be prescribed with extreme care. He recommend that all in attendance follow these steps before starting someone on a methadone regiment:

•Start low and go slow - Because of methadones extreme half-life it has the potential to build up in a patients body and while they don't feel the effects of the medication it is still in their system. He asked that prescribing physicians talk with their patients about this effect and make sure they take their medication exactly as directed.

•Obtain a sleep study - Sleep apnea can be caused by long acting opiates or can exist before patients ever take the drug and then be exacerbated by its effects. This is not only dangerous because of the lack of oxygen a patient my get but it also causes them to experience increased pain causing the need for more medication.

•Obtain electro cardiograms for methadone dose increases to determine the way a patients heart is reacting to the drugs effects.

•Avoid sleep aids and benzodiazepines with the opiate treatment as it can also lead to overdose.

•Avoid long acting opioid medications in acute pain treatment.

•Educate patients and family about the risks of the medication.

Those interested in further information concerning chronic pain treatment that includes a methadone prescription can visit or contact Four Corners locally.

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