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Statewide Effort To Fight Opioid Epidemic

Statewide Effort To Fight Opioid Epidemic

More Americans die from drug overdoses than car accidents. The number one type of drug responsible: opioids.

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will work together to address the deadly opioid epidemic. As Fox's Esther Kwon reports, there's also a big effort in Illinois.

Between 2014 and 2015, the number of Illinoisans who died of a drug overdose increased by 7.6%. Healthcare professionals from around the state gathered in Springfield on Wednesday for a workshop addressing the issues around opioids. Chair of the Planning Committee, Pat Schou, is also the Executive Director for the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network.

"Whether you're 15 years old or you're 95, you know, this is still a problem that we need to address," she said.

A problem the group of medical professionals is hoping to fight. They said the majority of opioid use comes from those using heroin, but prescription opioids are to blame for nearly half of overdose deaths.

"Opioids are often used for chronic pain management, and some of those situations the pain is actually mediated by nerve damage," Stacy Sattovia, an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the SIU School of Medicine, said.

Prescription painkillers, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, can give you a high that's similar to heroin.

"When they're being abused...[they have] effects of what heroin does - so that high euphoric feeling," Beaux Cole, a pharmacist at Medicine Shoppe, said.

Experts said a lot of times, people start taking pain meds simply to numb the pain; but, your body begins to build a tolerance and a need for it.

"There's been studies that show that there can be a huge increase in addiction just after 7-10 days use of a prescription medication for pain," Cole said.

Some overdoses aren't always intentional.

"We have elderly patients who experience accidental overdoses with these medications," Sattovia explained. "Particularly when they're mixed with other sedating medications or alcohol."

Some pharmacists said the U.S. has issues with overusing and over-prescribing opioids.

"[The] United States consumes 90% of the global hydrocodone tablets," Cole stated.

Healthcare professionals said opioids aren't the only - or best - option.

"These opioids don't really help people get better," Cole said. "We have to look at other drugs that help with chronic pain that aren't addictive."

Wednesday's workshop was only one in a series of events that are focused on identifying opioids, prevention and treatment options.

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