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FMB Library hosts presentation on the opioid epidemic

June 5, 2019
By LEAH SANKEY ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Beach Public Library hosted a presentation on the opioid epidemic on Wednesday, May 29. The presentation was led by Registered Nurse, Alice Mack. Mack said that in some places, librarians are now saving lives.

"Up north, especially in Pennsylvania, librarians have Narcan on hand and they're literally saving lives," said Mack. "I requested that they have it here, but they declined which is their decision and I understand."

Narcan is a medication used to counter an opioid overdose. It can be given in the form of nasal spray or a shot.

According to the CDC, Narcan has saved nearly 27,000 people from overdosing.

The library's reasons for deciding against keeping Narcan on hand were that the fire department is nearby, people may get violent after receiving Narcan and they could vomit.

"Alcohol and drug use and abuse goes back to the beginning of civilization," said Mack, "and the root is usually pain."

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Mack said that 80 percent of heroin users report that they used prescription painkillers before becoming addicted to heroin.

The opioid epidemic began in the early '90s when pharmaceutical companies began pushing prescription painkillers. The pharmaceutical companies assured the medical community that these prescription opiates were safe and effective. This period of time is known as the "first wave" of the opioid epidemic.

Mack stressed that anyone can be an addict and, oftentimes, the people around them have no idea. She said that this is why educating the public about opioids is so important.

"I had a friend that I went to nursing school with that overdosed on fentanyl 25 years ago," said Mack. "I was just shocked. I would never have thought that of her."

A mother and daughter who are both recovering addicts attended the presentation. The mother, Deborah Ashby, was an alcoholic and has been sober for six years. Her daughter, Alexandria Haffner, is a former drug addict who has been sober for two years. They both live on Fort Myers Beach.

"Oftentimes you'll hear addicts say, 'My doctor was my first drug dealer,'" said Haffner.

"Addicts don't wake up and decide to be addicted," said Ashby. "We can't even count on fingers and toes how many people we knew that overdosed," Ashby added.

Ashby and her daughter are some of the lucky ones who were able to escape the firm grasp of addiction.

According to the CDC, in 2016 Florida had 4,728 opioid related deaths. In 2017 Florida had 5,088 opioid related deaths. That is a statistically significant increase.



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