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Yuba-Sutter following national opioid addiction trends

Appeal-Democrat - 9/17/2017

Sept. 17--The country is experiencing an opioid epidemic, some say, and though Ohio has been pegged as the epicenter of the crisis, California and local counties are following the trend.

"It's an epidemic in general across the country," Yuba County Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said. "We're no different in California and Yuba County."

In Yuba-Sutter last year, there were more opioid prescriptions filled than people.

In 2016, there were 82,515 opioid prescriptions filled in Yuba County according to the California Department of Public Health; the total population is 74,577, according to state Department of Finance estimates.

In Sutter County last year, 100,323 opioid prescriptions were filled; the total population is 96,956.

And in Colusa County last year, 16,684 opioid prescriptions were filled; the population is 22,043.

Rideout Emergency Room Director Theresa Hyer echoed Quick's sentiments; though the department does not track what individuals visit for, she sees overdoses growing in ERs.

"We very much follow the national epidemic," Hyer said. "We see abuse in the area like we see abuse in the country; and we see both heroin and fentanyl overdoses."

Quick said the growth in prescription drug abuse has affected people of all backgrounds.

"This is actually one that has spanned socioeconomic groups," Quick said. "It's across the board."

Not only are the users diverse, but so are the drugs: opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, and heroin. Quick said the epidemic is a combination of heroin and prescriptions.

"When one becomes more expensive, people will switch back and forth," Quick said. "(There's) that group of people that will never cross into buying pills on the streets or heroine."

This has helped bring awareness to the issue, she said, and the surgeon general has pushed to educate physicians in prescribing opioids correctly. Despite the high numbers provided by the state Department of Health, Quick said she is seeing a decrease in the number of prescriptions in Yuba County.

Dr. Lou Anne Cummings, the Sutter County Public Health Officer, said doctors and health officials in Yuba-Sutter and across the nation are attempting to find successful solutions to the opioid epidemic.

"The numbers of prescriptions per capita in Sutter County are very concerning and raise the same questions regarding safety and addiction as in other places," Cummings said.

Quick said a preventative measure in Yuba County is that physicians need a special waiver to prescribe narcotics like suboxone or buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid addiction. She said there's also a push to increase the number of local physicians who can prescribe those treatment options.

There are also a handful of drug abuse treatment centers in the Yuba-Sutter area, Quick said.

Officials: Availability and steady supply may have caused epidemic

Yuba County Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said it's difficult to pinpoint how the opioid addiction became an epidemic, but she suspects availability and steady supply could be contributing factors.

"There's a big push for safe prescribing," she said. "We recognize in general that narcotics are not good for chronic pain."

Quick said she hopes people understand how widespread the problem is and they seek help for themselves or affected family and friends.

"The key take-home is that this is a problem we're seeing across all groups in society right now; everybody is susceptible," Quick said. "There is treatment available."

Quick said nasal Narcan or Naloxone is essential in saving someone's life who is overdosing; for those interested, call your local public health department.

"Having that on-hand is one thing we're pushing for," she said.


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