FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The United States is in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug abuse fueled by unsafe prescribing practices, lack of addiction treatment options, and limited safe drug disposal options, among other important contributing factors.
Given that the causes of prescription drug abuse are multi-factorial, the solution according to several experts to this problem will need to be comprehensive.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control show drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States.
In 2017 alone, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses.
Of those deaths, almost 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
These are just some of the reasons the U.S. Attorney’s office hosted an Opioid Awareness Summit at Fresno State.
Former addict, Tony Hoffman spoke at the summit.
Hoffman told CBS47, “I’m a Clovis Unified graduate of 2002. By 2004 I was committing a home invasion robbery for Oxycontin a pharmaceutical pain killer. Within 2 years after that I was homeless.”
The summit was attended by more than 225 educators, school nurses and others who work directly with teens.
Experts say doctors here in the valley are decreasing the number of pain killers they are handing out, which is making a difference.
But Hoffman says opioids are still an issue.
Hoffman says, “They are still going to get Vicodin when they get their wisdom teeth pulled. They are still going to get Oxycontin if they break a bone. There is a risk that comes with those because a lot of people think drug addicts choose to be drug addicts, that is not the case. Sometimes addiction is handed to them by a doctor.”
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott told CBS47, opioid abuse is one of the more urgent law enforcement and public health challenges facing our country today.
Scott says, “We’ve got the problem right here in our own backyard. With the expansion of synthetic opioids, the problem is really coming home to roost here, not just in Fresno but up and down the Central Valley.”
Scott says it’s a problem that law enforcement can not change by just arresting people.
He says it takes that, and also rehabilitation of addicts, along with education.
Scott says, “We need to talk to our kids about what are you seeing? What are your friends doing? What’s going on in school? Ask questions, try to find out what is going on and make it clear, this is not acceptable.”
Teachers who attended the summit say it gives them a better understanding of what to look for around their students and their own kids.