“I knew that you could get addicted, and I thought, I'm not going to let that happen to me,” Anandam Hilde said through tears as she shared her opioid addiction journey with more than 100 attendees at Public Health Portland Style. “But it did,” she continued. “I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be, and I hated myself.”
Next month Hilde, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, OHSU School of Medicine, will celebrate 10 years of sobriety, and she considers herself lucky.
Each year 15,000 people die from prescription opioid overdose. That’s approximately one person every 35 minutes. About 150 of whom are Oregonians, noted Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to substance abuse and suicide prevention. Some 280 million pills are prescribed in Oregon annually. That is more than any other state in the nation and equivalent to 70 pills for every man, woman and child in Oregon per year, Holton explained.
“This is a public health crisis,” said State Rep., Knute Buehler, M.D., of Bend, Oregon. Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon, is familiar with the use of prescription drugs for pain management. “It’s an epidemic in Oregon -- not like Ebola or Zika -- but an epidemic of drugs where more people die due to overdose of prescription narcotics than due to car wrecks.”
So what is the solution?
“First, we need to have less pills,” Holton said, indicating funding should be used to research and better understand non-opioid options for pain management and better prescribing processes.
The Oregon Health Authority’s recent adoption of the updated CDC guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain is a step in the right direction, he noted. Holton also cited increased access to treatment, better disposal options for unused pills, and stronger education for providers, patients and families to round out his four key strategies to defeating the opioid crisis in Oregon.
Buehler agrees with these strategies and indicated plans for effective prescription drug take-back programs across the state, in addition to an updating the law that protects drug dispensaries, also known as "pill mills."
Ultimately, Buehler said, the solution is strong communities and secure people. “It will take all of us to bring this problem out of the shadows to stand with those dealing with addiction and end the epidemic.”
Watch a live stream of the event here.
Hosted by the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, “Public Health Portland Style” is a monthly series of community forums designed to discuss key issues that affect residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington. The next session, "Your Health: Zip code or Genetic Code?" will take place Thursday, March. 16, at the Lucky Lab on N.W. Quimby in Portland.