Opioids still an issue in Southern Oregon, but treatments are available


President Trump Thursday said he will officially designate the opioid crisis a national emergency. Opioid use in Jackson and Josephine counties is still a growing issue.

Clinics across the region are working on finding ways to help opioid users and addicts find alternative ways of addressing their chronic pain. Sara Smith, a registered nurse at La Clinica and a member of Oregon Pain Guidance is a proponent of that.

"I think we have to help people figure out how to manage pain in ways that are more effective and not just say "Oh we're taking this thing away called opioids." What do we do to help people, how do we give them a different perspective," Smith says.

Smith says many opioid users do not know about treatment and what to do if they take it too far. Clinics and pharmacies can prescribe an overdose drug called Naloxone which people can administer during overdoses.

"Oregon has a law that allows any citizen to possess and use Naloxone on someone they think is in trouble, and a pharmacist can prescribe that directly to anyone that asks for it. So you don't need a doctor's prescription," Smith says. "Most overdoses are unintentional and most of them happen in the person's home. So if we had Naloxone handy, we could save a lot of lives and give people another chance."

Medicated assisted treatment is a way of helping opioid addicts. The Oregon government made it legal for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe treatment medicine, like Suboxone to help treat opioid addiction.

"The basic idea is that [the medicine] stabilizes their nervous system, so they are not craving the drug and withdrawing from the drug, which is completely preoccupying if you are an addict," Smith says.

Smith says even with treatment and president Trump's proposal, opioids will most likely affect Southern Oregon for years to come.

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