Life saving opioid treatments offered in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Life saving opioid treatments offered in Craig

Local law enforcement rely on ambulance service for narcan drug







— No one has died of an opiate overdose at The Memorial Hospital at Craig this year, however nine people were treated for overdoses in 2015 and another six patients in 2016, according to the hospital.

As the community, law enforcement and human service agencies come together to tackle the growing problem of opiate addiction in the community before it becomes an epidemic, area medical providers are on the front lines of overdose and addiction treatment.

Emergency Medical Services and emergency room hospital staff are using the drug, naloxone, to treat overdose.

Naloxone, sold under a variety of names, including the commonly used name, narcan, is able to temporarily halt opiate overdose, according to a press release by the Food and Drug Administration.

"We do carry narcan on our ambulances, and our advanced life support providers can administer it in the field," said Jennifer Riley, TMH chief of marketing and business development.

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Besides patients and providers, narcan is increasingly being carried by law enforcement, case workers and family members who might come in contact with people who have a high risk of overdose.

According to Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta, the department does not currently equip officers with the drug, as it is an expense and the drug requires handling at specific temperatures, something patrol cars are not equipped to provide. The police rely on the ambulance service for the drug instead.

However, the department would consider adding it in the future, Vanatta said.

"We might issue it for officer safety as officers are getting inadvertently exposed to (the opioid) fentanyl," he said.

In 2014, the FDA approved over the counter sales of narcan. A number of pharmacies and drug stores across the U.S., including CVS and Walgreens now sell the drug without a prescription. Yet, it is not yet available over the counter in Craig, said Rachelle Wright pharmacist at Walgreens in Craig.

It is her understanding that Walgreens is working to allow it in Colorado, but "currently it is available only with a prescription in Colorado," she said.

Even if narcan becomes available in Craig, it is not a substitute for critical medical care.

"Our EMS and emergency department personnel want to stress the importance of calling 9-1-1 if an overdose is suspected," Riley said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Elise Sullivan, at The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic is using the drug suboxone for longer-term addiction treatment. Suboxone is a drug that stops withdrawal symptoms, she said.

Long-term treatment options are essential to addressing the problem of opioid overdose and addiction. Sullivan first served people with opioid addiction in her family medical practice in California. She sees little difference in the need between California communities and the needs of people in Northwest Colorado.

"Opiate addiction is really the same across the country," Sullivan said. "Moffat County just has less resources to battle it."

Methadone, in-patient treatment at a facility and suboxone drug therapy are three proven addiction treatments, Sullivan said.

Both methadone and in-patient treatments are costly and invasive in their impact on the addict's life whereas, suboxone provides relief from withdrawal within two hours. Overtime, it completely blocks the opiate craving and can be discontinued between 12 to 24 months, Sullivan said.

"If you are a friend or a family member is wanting help, please ask. A lot of times patients with addiction have been treated poorly by the medical system," Sullivan said.

As previously reported in Craig Daily Press, many people are working to together, including Congress, to help Northwest Colorado communities develop resources for treatment and prevention.

"We need everyone involved in creating solutions and not ignoring them or pretending that it doesn't affect them," Vanatta said.

During a presentation at a community forum in August by the Director of Community Integration for Northwest Colorado Health Ken Davis, providers will play a large role in helping reduce prescription addiction by increasing patient awareness and reducing reliance on opioid painkillers.

"Prescribing for pain is a challenging issues because there is no lab or other absolutely sure way to know a patient is in pain," Sullivan said.

Last year, a jury convicted Dr. Joe Miller, formerly of Craig, of unlawfully prescribing controlled substances and causing the death of one of his patients as reported by the newspaper.

And, the impact of Miller's actions lingers in the community, Vanatta said.

Moving forward there are other options for people who are suffering from pain.

"There are alternative to opiates such as cymbalta, lyrica, gapapentin, accupunture, massage, chiropractic care, TENS unit and magnesium," Sullivan said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.