Jody Boulay: Opioid overdose deaths are preventable with drug education

October marks National Substance Use Prevention Month, making it the best time to push more prevention campaigns, drug education, and awareness and reach a broader audience. Amid the ongoing opioid epidemic, drug education and prevention have played a critical role in saving lives.

Fentanyl and other opioids are fueling the worst drug crisis in the history of the United States. Prevention campaigns can play an important role. Local drug education programs and organizations in Indiana, combined with reliable information about opioids, can make a huge difference.

Most people know the opioid epidemic began with overprescribing pain medications such as OxyContin. The deceptive marketing techniques and advertising as safe and effective resulted in countless deaths and addiction problems.

Over the years, the opioid epidemic has gone in waves with prescription pain medication, a resurgence of heroin, and illegally manufactured synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In recent years, the crisis has become defined by fentanyl.

In 2021, more than 2,500 Indiana residents died of a drug overdose; over 70% of those deaths were caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

Prevention campaigns can focus on critical messaging that can reach broader audiences, especially recreational drug users. For instance, fentanyl can be hidden in drugs. Fentanyl is increasingly found in counterfeit prescription pain medication.

These pills are made to look like the real thing and are commonly sold on social media platforms using code words and emojis to advertise products. Fentanyl is also found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl without using fentanyl test strips.

Moreover, mixing drugs can cause overdoses, especially if one of those drugs is laced with fentanyl.

Mixing stimulants increases the risk of stroke and heart attack while mixing opioids with other depressants drastically suppresses breathing.

It’s also critical to speak about Naloxone as a life-saving medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose. It is available in all 50 states without a prescription. Good Samaritan laws protect those who are overdosing.

Finally, people in treatment and recovery need support. Showing compassion for people who use drugs and offering support during their treatment and recovery journey are successful ways of reducing stigma.

Communities that come together and share campaigns and related resources about overdose prevention and addiction are taking essential steps to stop drug overdoses and save lives.

Jody Boulay is a mother of two with a passion for helping others. She currently works as a community outreach coordinator for to help spread awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Send comments to [email protected].