According to the latest statistics from the Virginia Department of Health, the number of fatal overdoses in the state caused by opioids rose for the fifth straight year. In 2017, an estimated 1,227 died from overdoses involving prescription medications and illicit opioids – a 114 percent increase over 2012, which had 572 deaths.
The opioid crisis is also affecting our local community. In 2016, there were more than 100 drug-related deaths in Fairfax County, 80 of which were caused by opioid overdoses – more than any other jurisdiction in the state. We have a plan to address the crisis, and part of that plan includes you.
Below is a comprehensive look at the problem (and how you can help), including this audio clip of Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova discussing opioids and the impact of substance abuse in Fairfax County at a Community Substance Abuse Summit that she co-hosted with Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phyllis Randall.
Opioids act on the brain and produce a euphoric effect.
- Often prescribed to relieve pain. Morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, methadone and fentanyl are all opioids.
- The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid.
- Highly addictive, even lethal, if used improperly.
- Heroin laced with carfentanil (an opioid tranquilizer used on large animals) and fentanyl has appeared in illegal drug markets and is extremely dangerous for humans.
- Used for pain management for Stage 4 cancer patients.
- Ten times more potent than heroin.
- Lethal dose of pure fentanyl is about the size of a few grains of salt.
- From 2014 to 2015, fentanyl incidents more than doubled in the U.S. (from 5,343 to 13,882).
- Now present in illegal U.S. drug markets.
- 10,000 times more potent than morphine; 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
- Depresses the central nervous system and ability to breathe.
- Tiny particles (through nose, mouth, injection) can create life-threatening effects within minutes of exposure.
There are a number of clues you can look for if you suspect someone close to you may be using opioids. These include:
- Isolation and secretive behavior
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Moodiness, irritability, nervousness, giddiness
- Emotionally erratic: quickly changes between feeling bad and good
Physical signs of heroin use
- Pupils of eyes are small, pinpoints
- Decreased respiration rate
- Intense flu-like symptoms: nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking of hands, feet or head
Warning signs of drug use
- Missing medications
- Burnt or missing spoons or bottle caps
- Small bags with powder residue
- Missing shoelaces or belts
If you or a someone close to you need assistance with a substance issue, we can help.
- If the situation is immediately life-threatening, call 9-1-1. Our Fire and Rescue personnel carry medication that can prevent death from an opioid overdose.
- Call our Fairfax Detoxification Center at 703-502-7000; available 24/7, including weekends and holidays.
- The center includes a mobile team called Detox Diversion that is available between 3 p.m. and 1 a.m. daily. They respond to police and community requests to intervene at the scene of a potential arrest to instead refer the individual to detoxification services.
- Call our Community Services Board during business hours at 703-383-8500. Our staff can help you find appropriate treatment and recovery resources.
- Youth and adults can also come in person, without a prior appointment, to Entry & Referral Services at the CSB’s Merrifield Center, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to be screened for services. Youth walk-in evaluations are offered during these times and also until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. [Learn what happens during an assessment]
We need your help to fight this crisis as a community. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:
- Sign up for a REVIVE training. The classes train individuals on what to do and not do in an overdose situation, how to administer naloxone, and what to do afterwards. Each attendee also receives a free REVIVE! kit, which includes all the supplies needed to administer naloxone. The medication itself can be acquired at a pharmacy after completing the training. Attendees also receive a safety plan to help individuals prevent overdose if they relapse.
- Learn how to properly dispose of medications. Reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine by removing expired, unwanted or unused medicines from your home as quickly as possible.
- Take advantage of free, convenient, confidential and safe disposal of unused or expired medications during Operation Medicine Cabinet Cleanout on Saturday, April 28. Drop off medications at any of the eight Fairfax County District Police Stations (pills or liquids only, no pressurized canisters or needles) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Complete an Overdose Safety Plan for either yourself or a friend in need.
- Register for a Community Conversation about the Opioid Crisis from 1-5 p.m. on April 28 at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Herndon. Students in 7th-12th grades and their parents are welcome.