This month, the Wellness Coalition would like to highlight one of its members: The San Benito County Opioid Task Force. The SBC OTF is a local coalition that was founded in 2017 and is committed to preventing opioid overdoses and deaths in the county through prevention efforts that include: safe medicine disposal, safe prescribing, medication assisted treatment, naloxone training and distribution and educational outreach.
There has been an increase of overdose deaths resulting from illicit drugs and prescription opioids in recent years. What are opioids? Opioids are a class of drugs that can produce variety of effects, including the relief of pain. Opioids include prescription pain medications such as Vicodin, Morphine, Oxycontin but also include illicit street drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid (50-100x stronger than morphine) originally developed for treating severe pain (and is still used as a prescription medication for treating severe pain, surgery, etc.). In the last couple of years, illegally street-made fentanyl use has increased and has even been found mixed or “laced” in other drugs (stimulants, marijuana, counterfeit pills). Many opioid-related overdoses and deaths are linked to use of counterfeit pills made to look like real prescription pills (Xanax, Oxycontin, etc.) but instead contain fentanyl. Fentanyl, in powder form, is hard to detect, has no specific taste or smell. One small grain can be lethal. Fentanyl has been the reason of the spike of San Benito County overdose deaths since 2019.
The California Department of Public Health and the DEA recently issued advisories about “rainbow fentanyl” which is fentanyl disguised to look like colorful candy or chalk, meant to be appealing to youth. It is found in pills and powders that can come in several colors, sizes, and shapes. Pills obtained from anyone other than a healthcare provider or pharmacist, are considered dangerous and likely to contain lethal amounts of fentanyl. We urge everyone to talk with their loved ones about this. The DEA uses the message of “one pill can kill”.
Naloxone is a lifesaving medication that can reverse an overdose caused by opioids. It is commonly given as a nasal spray called Narcan, which can be safely administered by non-medical personnel during an overdose emergency. Naloxone temporary blocks the effects of opioids in the body, reversing the overdose symptoms (breathing, etc.) until emergency medical help arrives. Naloxone has no effect in an individual who does not have opioids in the body. Therefore, there is no harm if administered to a person who does not have opioids in their system. The Centers for Disease Control and Surgeon General strongly encourage communities to readily have access to naloxone to help prevent death due to opioid-related overdoses. We urge people to be trained to use Narcan and carry it or keep it with a first aid kit or AED like the way we think of an epi-pen.
Some of the signs of an opioid overdose include the following:
• Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
• Falling asleep or losing consciousness
• Slow, weak, or no breathing
• Choking or gurgling sounds
• Limp body
• Cold and/or clammy skin
• Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)
If you encounter an individual that you suspect is having an overdose, please call 911, administer Narcan if available, try to keep the person awake, lay the person on their side to prevent choking and wait for emergency services to arrive.
The San Benito County Opioid Task Force has been successful in its efforts since first forming back in 2017. SBC OTF has conducted over numerous educational and outreach presentations, partnered with more than 21 agencies and organizations, provided naloxone training to hundreds of individuals, and dispersing over 1300 doses of Narcan.
Where to Get Naloxone?
· Visit any local pharmacy without a prescription, the pharmacist can furnish naloxone to you
· Most insurances cover the cost of naloxone including Medi-Cal
· Visit https://nextdistro.org/cachoice
· Choose which type of naloxone you would like to receive
· Watch a 4-minute training video
· Fill out a 4-question quiz, to ensure you watched the training video
· Fill out form and naloxone will be mailed to your house for free
San Benito County Opioid Task Force
· Call 831-637-5367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a training and obtain a free box (2 doses) of Narcan
Disposing unwanted, unused, and expired medication is also a very important measure for preventing misuse of unused or expired medication and prevention of overdose. We encourage everyone to safely dispose of unused or expired medications…do not keep them at home. To safely dispose, please see the disposal flyer for locations throughout Hollister which accept medications for disposal. Also, the Hollister Police Department hosts National Take Back Days every April and October (next one October 29th). In addition, many pharmacies, Integrated Waste Management and Public Health have limited supplies of Take Away envelopes for safe disposal of medications. For more detail on disposal of unwanted or unused medication and sharps please refer to the information below.
For further information please visit Home | San Benito County Opioid Task Force (sbcopioidtaskforce.org)
Butanis, B. (2018, April 30). What are opioids? Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/opioids/what-are-opioids.html
Fentanyl. DEA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, July 21). Overdose death rates. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates