August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day.
North America continues to experience the highest drug-related mortality rate in the world.
Peter Stout, CEO/president at Houston Forensic Science Center, says society focuses on the staggering death toll from opioids, but deaths from other drugs — both illegal, like cocaine and methamphetamine, and legal ones such as alprazolam (Xanax) — are also rising rapidly.
“Drug overdose is not about a single type of drug,” Stout relates. “We must grow awareness of the potential to overdose on high concentrations of THC or CBD products. These are our sons and daughters, and drug abuse is a lifelong struggle once it starts.”
The best way to help someone after an overdose is to navigate them into services quickly and get them into a safe environment, according to Jessica Yeager, peer recovery support specialist, Houston Recovery Center.
“The window of opportunity for someone to be receptive to treatment is small,” Yeager relates. “It is crucial we offer services quickly to help them reach long-term recovery and to stop using.”
Stout says his main concern regarding drugs in Houston is how the justice system is stretched too thin.
“From too few police officers to too few prosecutors to too few laboratory resources,” Stout says. “This leads to backlogs, but even worse to impossible decisions about how to proceed and what to prioritize. This affects the entire community.”
Check out additional information in this Opioid Overdose Toolkit developed by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).