Now is the time to act to avert the wave of opioid overdoses to come: editorial

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As Gretchen Kuda Croen of cleveland.com recently reported, modeling suggests a tidal wave of drug overdose deaths is coming — in Ohio and around the country. And with Ohio, the seventh most populous state, ranked No. 4 for drug overdose deaths in 2020, there’s no doubt the state and region will once again be in the eye of this tragic storm. .

These are horrific facts that impending circumstances could make worse – and that demand preventive action now.

Getting ahead of this scourge means understanding it, then finding the fastest way to blunt it.

At the origin of the crisis: fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, an analgesic for cancer patients, but which is sometimes used to prolong or intensify or to pass itself off as other substances, such as Adderall, a drug for treat hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder sometimes misused as a study aid. Authorities suspect counterfeiting of Adderall or a similar drug in the accidental overdose deaths last May of two Ohio State University students, including one from the Cleveland area.

But what if students have easy access to fentanyl test strips, so they can check?

A crucial policy response to the opioid scourge would be the mass distribution of fentanyl test strips and naloxone kits.

Fentanyl test strips are “small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in any batch of drugs – pills, powder or injections”, according to Health Affairs, a publication of Project Hope. Naloxone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is “a drug that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.” Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or injection. The distribution of test strips, in particular, should be as wide as possible in Greater Cleveland.

Local frontline organizations have won praise for tackling the opioid scourge, but more can and should be done. Last year, for example, national experts praised Cuyahoga County for its distribution of naloxone and the County Board of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, in particular, for its focus on community reintegration for previously incarcerated persons. But experts also cited the lack of evidence that drug treatment funds were only spent on accredited programs with proven results — more important than ever, given the number of overdose deaths and the need to not not waste the opioid settlement funds that are coming in.

Meanwhile, from Cuyahoga County’s $117.5 million opioid settlement, County Executive Armond Budish said he wants to fund a $10 million Opioid Innovation Fund. dollars to test new ways to fight the outbreak, but the county council is undecided on the matter. The plan remains under discussion. If approved, it would be overseen by a board made up of medical experts, community representatives and people with experience of drug addiction, either personally or through a family member. Budish’s idea is sensible, creative and welcome – and the board should approve it.

Equally commendable is Senator Rob Portman’s ongoing quest to combat fentanyl trafficking and abuse in order to save lives not only in Ohio but across the country.

Ultimately, stopping fentanyl from entering the United States in the first place must be a key goal of government action. And border protection (along our land border with Mexico and our maritime border, as well as through the mail) is a federal responsibility.

The Joe Biden administration must do more to stop imported fentanyl at our border and ports of entry. Likewise, the government should fully deploy its mechanisms to implement Portman’s strategy. STOP Law (Traffic of Synthetics and Prevention of Overdoses).

The measure, according to Portman’s office, requires international parcel post shippers “to provide basic shipping information to [federal Customs and Border Protection].” Donald Trump signed the Portman Bill into law in October 2018. Portman has also sponsored federal substance abuse recovery and prevention legislation with bipartisan support. His leadership on the issue, in combination with community efforts in Greater Cleveland and elsewhere in the state, is crucial to addressing the deadly threat that fentanyl and other opioids pose to the people of Ohio.

More importantly, now is the time to act and prepare to act, and muster the resources, the fentanyl strips and naloxone kits, and the will to act. The lives saved could well be someone you know, in your own family, on your street or among your children’s classmates.

About our editorials: Editorials express the point of view Editorial Committee of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer — senior management and the editorial team. As is tradition, editorials are unsigned and are intended to be seen as the voice of the news agency.

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