Harm Reduction Techniques: Missouri Opioid Crisis

Opioids have been on the rise in the United States for years now, and it’s only getting worse. What’s worse is that Missouri is contributing to thousands of overdose deaths every year.

Some of these deaths involved prescription painkillers, and it’s not just one group of people or demographic who are suffering. This opioid epidemic in Missouri has impacted a vast amount of individuals from different backgrounds. This could range from the mailman to your boss.

In Missouri, one in every three families is directly impacted by opioid abuse. This hardship is a reality for lots of people in Missouri. Not only that but close to three people die from an opioid overdose every day in the state. But what are the variables in this circumstance? Are these prescriptions or illicit drugs? The answer is both.

The opioids in this research refer to both prescription and illicit drugs. This means painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. Fentanyl has especially become more present in Missouri in recent years, which proves to be concerning for Missouri’s future. However, when considering both ends of the spectrum, prescription opioids are far more commonly misused. You’d think illicit substances would be abused more than prescription substances; but when treating pain, most people will use whatever is available to feel better.

How Many People Are Impacted by Opioids in Missouri?

The United States is experiencing the most significant substance use and overdose epidemic it has ever faced.  Sadly, it has been exacerbated by a worldwide pandemic and driven by the spread of highly potent synthetic opioids mainly containing fentanyl and other deadly chemicals.

Like many other states across the country, Missouri has experienced sharp increases in opioid use, overdose, and related deaths. To further prove the severity of this epidemic in the Show-Me State, national and state data suggest that there was a major rise in overdose deaths from May 2020 to April 2021.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were over 100,000 deaths due to opioid overdose. In the 12 months leading up to this time period, these numbers on record were the highest they have ever been in the state of Missouri. In the first 9 months of 2020, the rates of opioid-related deaths due to overdose increased by 30% compared to the same timeframe as the year before.

In 2020, the Police in Columbia, Missouri, saw nearly a 35% increase in calls for people needing help due to overdose. While the number of opioid deaths increased in 2020 compared to 2019, so did the number of times first responders used the life-saving drug Narcan.

Columbia police used Narcan 19 times in 2019, in 2020 patrol officers used it 48 times. The urgency of people needing help for opioid abuse is demonstrated in these statistics. In 2022, Missouri hopes to improve access to high-quality treatment on the front and back end for people each year that desperately need treatment.

How is Missouri Trying to Prevent Opioid Overdoses?

The Missouri department of health and senior services (DHSS) has done quite the job of fighting this opioid epidemic. DHSS has been tracking data related to opioid abuse so that they can pinpoint where progress is needed. They’ve also applied for and received grants that will help them fight against the opioid epidemic. This also leads to more awareness of the epidemic.

In addition to this, they’re trying their best to make Narcan more accessible to those who need it. This order provides medication-free Narcan for the use of emergencies in a variety of areas. These include high schools, public libraries, college campuses, and more. Not only that but now because of DHSS, pharmacists are allowed to dispense Naloxone without a prescription. This occurred throughout the entire state because of the DHSS. However, the accessibility of Naloxone is only good if people know-how, and when, to use it.

Because of the DHSS, there is more training and distribution of Naloxone available through their partnership with the MO HOPE project. In conjunction with the CDC, the DHSS is working tirelessly to instate county-level vulnerability assessments. The idea is that it will help identify areas throughout the state that are prone to opioid overdoses. The results of these assessments will allow for more insight into the prevention services for opioid overdose.

Harm Reduction Techniques in Missouri

Harm reduction services save lives by being available and accessible to people who use prescription drugs. States including Missouri are trying to play a significant role in preventing drug-related deaths and offering access to healthcare, social services, and treatment. This results in a reduction in overdose fatalities, acute life-threatening infections, and chronic diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

Lastly, DHSS is establishing a response team to assist in reducing overdose deaths in St. Louis. This is imperative to the mission because, in St. Louis, overdose rates are the highest out of any city within the state of Missouri. What’s more, is that this response team follows up and visits the overdose sites to help those that have survived an overdose.

What is MO HOPE?

MO HOPE stands for Missouri Opioid-Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education. It is a project that was started with hopes of reducing the vast number of opioid-related deaths and overdose incidents. The Department of Mental Health (DMH) provides the personnel for leadership. Other than that, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) implements the strategy and the Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) evaluates everything.

The details of the grant that was awarded to start MO HOPE are quite thought out; this included training first responders, addiction treatment providers, and other parts of the community that could help prevent opioid overdose. Primarily, the goal is prevention strategy. Part of this includes Naloxone distribution far and wide to at-risk communities. The training for those who fall into the categories mentioned above focuses on practices that have proven effective in the past. All in all, the goal is to help prevent opioid overdose.

What are Harm Reduction Techniques?

Harm reduction is when certain practices are implemented to help minimize poor outcomes when it comes to health, social, and legal issues. This is specifically for situations that involve drug overdose. The foundations of this practice are built upon human rights and social justice. The ultimate goal is to encourage positive change. This happens when judgment-free environments exist within the communities that need change. Not only that, but the idea is that conditional support is thrown out the window.

This sort of support possesses a variety of services, whether health or social, that apply to prescription and illicit substances. What does this look like, exactly? Harm reduction techniques include the following:

  • Drug consumption rooms
  • Needle and syringe programs
  • Non-abstinence-based housing 
  • Non-abstinence based employment initiatives
  • Drug checking
  • Overdose prevention
  • Psychological support
  • Psychosocial support

What Are The Principles of Harm Reduction Techniques?

The approach of harm reduction techniques described above are cost-effective and have shown that they can have a positive influence on the surrounding community. With this, it’s imperative to know what the principles of harm reduction are. The principles of harm reduction include the following:

  • Respecting the rights of people who use drugs
  • Commitment to evidence
  • Commitment to social justice
  • Collaborating with networks of people who use drugs
  • The avoidance of stigma

There are also goals of harm reduction that are important to keep in mind. These include the following:

  • Keep people alive
  • Encourage positive change
  • Reduce the harm of drug laws and policies
  • Offer alternatives to approaches that seek to end or prevent drug use

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction and overdose are serious issues and should be treated as such. There is no one-size-fits-all method to treatment for addiction; everybody has their journey with substance abuse and their care should reflect their individual needs. Some of these options may include the following:

What is Inpatient Residential Treatment?

Inpatient residential treatment is meant to treat more severe forms of addiction; it’s a method of treatment in which those who participate stay overnight in a facility for an extended amount of time. This could last anywhere from 28 days to over half a year depending on the severity of a person’s condition. Those who participate do so under the watchful eye of professional medical personnel. In addition to this, they spend anywhere from every day to multiple times a week with professionally licensed therapists and psychiatrists. 

What is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient treatment for substance use disorder is a form of care more suitable for those who suffer from milder forms of addiction. Although, that’s not to say that those who participate have only suffered from a mild addiction. This is because some people use outpatient care as a means of transition from one form of treatment (perhaps inpatient or partial hospitalization) to another. In other words, it’s a sort of stepping stone for some between the treatment facility and the world outside of rehab. 

Those who participate in outpatient care usually do so anywhere from 3 months to over a year. Since they aren’t required to stay in the care of a treatment facility, they have a lot more responsibility. This way they can go to work, school, or whatever else throughout the day, and then attend therapy and treatment later in the evening. Outpatient care typically provides anywhere from 10-12 hours of professional therapy or psychiatry per week.

What is Medically Assisted Detox?

Medically assisted detox is a method of treatment for those who are suffering from the symptoms of withdrawal. Some of those symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Shaking

The symptoms of withdrawal are nothing to wave a finger at. Those who relapse often do so because of the withdrawal symptoms they experience. It’s easy to slip back into addictive habits when the withdrawal is driving you crazy. With medically assisted treatment, those who participate can be weaned off of drugs slowly. This is because the treatment provides these individuals with medication that helps curb their withdrawal symptoms. 

Sana Lake Can Help Manage Your Addictive Behaviors With Harm Reduction Techniques

Substance use disorder is a disease that is not easily shaken off. There are many people throughout the United States and the state of Missouri who deals with addiction. Not only that, but a plethora of individuals suffer from an opioid overdose every day. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or an overdose, you can contact us here.