On September 30 Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s population health division launched a three-month multi-media campaign in Laramie County focusing on opioid use disorder, including how to get help, how to talk to providers about alternatives to using opioids for pain management and the importance of stigma reduction.
“Wyoming is not immune to the nationwide opioid crisis,” said Angela Vaughn, CRMC’s community health project manager. “In 2018, 66 deaths in our state were caused by opioid overdoses, including 28 overdoses from prescribed opioid medications.”
The campaign emphasizes the danger of opioid use by highlighting that it can take as few as five days for someone to become addicted to opioids.
“Many people may not realize how quickly an addiction to prescription opioids can develop,” Vaughn said. “That’s one of the big dangers.”
Factors that increase the risk of addiction or overdose include being over age 65, being pregnant, having sleep apnea and having a history of substance abuse or mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
“Another tragic fact is that nationwide, 68 percent of all opioid-related fatal overdoses are from a legal prescription,” Vaughn said. “While there are certainly valid medical reasons for using a prescribed opioid medication, it’s important that Laramie County residents fully understand the dangers and risks and discuss possible alternatives to opioid use for pain management with their providers.”
The campaign is also focused on educating the public about the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction, helping someone who has overdosed, encouraging people who have an addiction to get help and reducing the stigma of opioid addiction.
Symptoms of opioid addiction include needing more medication for the same level of pain relief, increased sensitivity to pain, itching and sweating, nausea and vomiting, confusion, depression and withdrawal when the medication is reduced or stopped.
“Opioid addiction is a medical disorder, not a character flaw,” Vaughn said. “As a first step, it’s important to educate and encourage people to consider alternatives to opioid use for pain management. But if someone has become addicted, they need to know where to turn for help.”
Information about opioid use disorder, including signs and symptoms and how to get help, is available on CRMC’s website at cheyenneregional.org/opioid.
Wallet-sized cards showing how to help someone experiencing an opioid overdose and listing local resources to help someone with an addiction are also available by calling and leaving a message at (307) 773-8241.
Funding for the campaign was provided by a State Opioid Response Grant awarded to CRMC in 2018.