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The St. Francois County Opioid Consortium is taking action to address the public health crisis of opioid overdose and addiction.

A group of community partners organized by the St. Francois County Health Center, the Opioid Consortium is promoting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Rx Awareness campaign designed to bring attention to the risks associated with prescription opioids. 

Every day in the United States, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids and more than 40 people die from prescription opioid-involved overdoses, according to the CDC.

This national epidemic is having an impact in St. Francois County where there are more opioid prescriptions than there are people. St. Francois County is the 65th highest opioid prescribing county in the nation and has the fourth highest rate of death due to opioid overdose in Missouri. 

The campaign, whose theme is “It Only Takes a Little to Lose a Lot,” focuses on the dangers of prescription opioids, whether they are used for medical or nonmedical (recreational) purposes. 

Through a series of testimonials from people affected by prescription opioid overdose, the campaign uses videos, digital and social media, and out-of-home ads to highlight the physical, emotional, and economic toll opioid addiction and overdose can take on individuals, families, and communities.

Prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine, can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but they can also have serious risks and side effects such as overdose and addiction.

“Overdoses from opioids are on the rise and no community is spared, including ours,” said Amber Elliott, assistant director at St. Francois County Health Center. “By participating in the Rx Awareness campaign, we are tackling this problem close to home and protecting the health and well-being of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors.”

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can possibly become addicted to them. It is important for patients to be informed and actively involved in their care. Abusing or misusing opioids can lead to the inability to keep a job, maintain a healthy relationship, and even death.

The Opioid Consortium has put together a list of best practices to observe when prescribed opioids.

First, patients should talk with their doctor to fully understand benefits and risks of prescription opioids before taking them.

The second practice that the consortium suggests for patients being treated for pain is to make sure they’re getting care that is safe, effective, and right for them. 

“Talk with your doctor about setting goals for management of your pain,” Elliott said on CDC recommendations. “Ask your doctor about non-opioid options for treating pain, including medications other than opioids as well as nonpharmacologic options, like exercise.”

The consortium, along with the CDC, also suggest that patients should always let their doctor know about any side effects or concerns they may have.

Guidelines for the responsible use of opioids are laid out as well and include never taking opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed and avoid taking opioids with alcohol and other substances or medications.

It is very dangerous to combine opioids with other drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness. 

Lastly, the group urges opioid patients to not share or sell their prescription opioids and to safely store their medications. There are several police departments that take unused and unwanted medications.

For more information on opioid overdose, and how to become involved in the Rx Awareness campaign, visit www.CDC.gov/RxAwareness.

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Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com.

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