Dowell: It is here: opioid abuse spreading in Georgia

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

That’s right! Opioid abuse is finally attempting to gain traction here in Georgia. In fact, Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed opioid legislation (SB121, SB 88, and HB249) that he hopes will enable and empower law-enforcement to “more effectively fight the ongoing opioid epidemic that impacts individuals, families and communities across Georgia,” said Deal. The governor believes that “this legislation will help save lives and give hope to the victims ensnared by this epidemic as well as their loved ones.”

The opioid epidemic has been particularly cruel and devastating in the New England states. In Massachusetts, government officials were shocked when they discovered that during the first half of 2015 more than 684 people lost their lives to opioid abuse.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids jumped by 80 percent in 2014 over the previous year, the CDC said, suggesting much of the increase may reflect the greater availability of illegally made fentanyl. In Ohio, fentanyl overdoses jumped to 514 in 2014 from 92 a year earlier. The most potent narcotic known, it is a man-made opioid, 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times more so than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website.

The question is, why would a person risk their life knowing the dangers of fentanyl? For opioid users, the answer is simple – it is the ultimate “high.”

Playing with fentanyl is like playing a game of Russian roulette. Just ask an East Liverpool, Ohio police officer, Chris Green, who in effecting a drug related arrest, accidentally got some of the substance on his body. Green was not wearing gloves or a mask, which is standard protocol for the department. The officer later passed out at the station from overdosing on the white powder that police think was Fentanyl. The drug is so dangerous that it can get into the body just through contact with the skin. Green was immediately given several doses of Narcan to stabilize him.

Fentanyl, which is been around for years is not all bad. It works miracles for cancer patients devastated by pain. It is normally given to patients in the form of patches or lozenges.

What Americans are getting high on

In a 2012, National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report it was revealed that the following is used by Americans to get high:

Alcohol: 86 million

Marijuana: 18.9 million and growing

Rx Painkillers: 4.9 million and growing

Depressants: 2.4 million

Cocaine: 1.6 million

Rx Stimulants: 1.2 million

Hallucinogens: 1.1 million

Heroin: 669,000 (growing in popularity among teens and college students)

Methamphetamine: 440,000 (very popular among teens)

Alcohol continues to be a major killer of Americans and especially youth, as we can see from the recent death of Timothy Piazza, the 19-year-old Penn State sophomore who died after a hazing ritual. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts everything, however in proper perspective.  It reports that annually, nearly 88, 000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2013, alcohol was responsible for 10,076 deaths on our highways. The cost of alcoholism misuse and related problems is also very expensive costing more than $223.5 billion. It also reports that almost three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking.

Binge drinking and college students

It is not a surprise that when our kids leave home for college, they tend to engage often times in binge drinking. In 2013, 39 percent of college students ages 18-22 engaged in heavy drinking to the extent of becoming intoxicated. The consequences of their actions can be catastrophic. Each year it is estimated that 1825 college students between the ages of 18 -24 die from alcohol related injuries, which includes automobile crashes. College students truly do get into a lot of trouble while drinking and nearly 97,000 of them report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Something has to be done-maybe Governor Deal is on to something.

Dr. Glenn Dowell is an author and columnist who currently lives in Jonesboro, Georgia. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses , including having appeared on TV programs such as the Oprah Winfrey Show. He may be reached at