It is in the news every day – people are dying from opioid overdoses. It has been declared a national public health emergency and it is taking lives in our own community. County officials and several county agencies, including the Community Services Board (CSB), are committing substantial resources to end this crisis.
What can you do?
Read Susan’s story below and get information on how you may be able to help prevent another death from opioids. (We are using a pseudonym, rather than her real name, to protect her privacy.)
We hear the term opioids a lot, but do you know what an opioid is? Here is basic information:
- 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.
- Opioids act on the brain and produce an euphoric effect.
- 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.
On a cold October Monday morning at the Government Center, 28-year old Susan bravely shared with a room full of local officials and community members her dark and chilling personal experiences with addiction. She described a tough upbringing that included heavy emotional abuse. “Before I was 21 years old, I was a human trashcan,” Susan told the hushed audience.
“I did every drug you can think of; replacing one drug for another. From the age of 13, I was addicted. I started with alcohol and cigarettes; quickly moving on to marijuana, cocaine, PCP, heroin,” she recounted. “My mother was the ‘fun mom’ and we used together. At the time, I thought she was the coolest. We partied hard.”
Despite multiple stints in jail and rehab, poor health, knots in her arms and dramatic weight loss (down to 80 pounds), it wasn’t until she was homeless that Susan finally decided that she was done with drugs “for good.”
Susan says she helped find her path to recovery through the help of people who cared enough to take the time to listen to her and who understood her struggles and how hard it was. “My probation officer, CSB staff with A New Beginning and Crossroads, and so many others helped saved my life; and eventually my mother’s life too.”
Sadly, hard stories like Susan’s are not uncommon in Fairfax County.
- If the situation is immediately life-threatening, call 911. Our Fire and Rescue personnel carry medication that can prevent deaths from opioid overdose.
- If it’s after business hours, call CSB Emergency Services at 703-573-5679; available 24/7, every day of the year, including weekends and holidays.
- If you or someone you love needs help to overcome drug dependence, call us 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 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.]
Watch: Know The Signs:
In Fairfax County in 2016:
- More than 100 drug-related deaths – more than any other jurisdiction in our state.
- 80 of the deaths were related to opioid overdoses (compared with 60 opioid-related deaths in 2015).
- EMS workers reported 369 uses of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. (Jan-Sept)