Dr. Bernard Birnbaum, MD, Associate Director of the PVH family Medicine Residency Program in Fort Collins for over 10 years, gave us an interesting review of the sad situation involving opioids and their impact on our local community.  For starters, across the country, 60,000 people died last year from opioid overdose.  Forty people annually die from opioid overdose in Larimer County.  The Department of Public Health tracks this disturbing data.  Dr. Birnbaum says that treatment with replacement opioids is very effective and is being used more and more by the medical community in an attempt to reverse this situation.  This tragedy is not restricted to any race, culture or age group.
The opioid drug comes from the opium plant and was used in the late 1800’s to calm "hysterical" women.  The primary opioids in use today are morphine, codeine and thebaine, among others.  Two synthetic versions of the drug are methadone and tramadol which are used extensively in pain management treatment.  There was an exponential rise in opioid use in the 1990’s due to increased prescribing by medical professionals related to pain management.  It is thought that this increase was due to a strategic push by pharmaceutical companies to deliver increasing profits to their shareholders.
The addiction that develops from overuse becomes a disease of the brain.  It is thought that sometimes this affliction develops due to adverse childhood experiences.  Access to treatment immediately is paramount and the drug Narcone is one of the most effective reversal agents.  Opioid overdose is the #1 cause of accidental death in Larimer County.  It is thought that improving communication between health care providers would go a long ways towards decreasing the level of inappropriate overprescribing.  Locally, law enforcement is working with the health department in an effort to assist with reducing instances of overuse.