Two community forums are taking place over the next week to talk about preventing overdose. They couldn't come at a better time.
Overdose kills more Rhode Islanders than any other kind of accident (including traffic and guns). During the first two weeks of January, 22 Rhode Islanders died from presumed illicit drug overdoses. Another two died over the past two weekends, according to a source at the health department.
The cause of those 22 deaths is still under investigation, but everyone I talk to in the addiction treatment world tells me they're probably from heroin cut with something even more (if that's possible) dangerous, like Fentanyl (a painkiller many times more potent than heroin that even habitual users' bodies aren't prepared for). Again, that's still under investigation.
But if you thought overdose was something that happened to someone else, in an urban, back alley, you might be surprised by the statistics. A growing number of overdoses are among white, middle class women who live in the suburbs. And as most people know, addiction doesn't discriminate. Many people get started for legitimate reasons on prescription painkillers, which are addictive. They get addicted, build a tolerance, and might switch to cheaper and readily available heroin, which is essentially the same drug.
The first community forum is tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 29) from 6:30 - 7:30 pm at the Warwick police department, hosted by an advocacy organization called Protect Families First. More information on that one here.
The second is Wednesday, Feb. 5th at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, sponsored jointly by the Miriam, the RI department of health, and RICARES (Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts). More information on that one here.
I'm at work on a documentary about the problem of opiate addiction and overdose in Rhode Island. As the state's top accidental killer, and a growing problem, I thought it deserved the attention. I'll be looking at it from a number of different angles, including a few that aren't often talked about, I think. In the meantime, feel free to comment or drop me a line about your experiences.