Opioid Outreach Program Seeks to Control Epidemic

Presentations and discussions will be held at colleges to combat the opioid epidemic.

Earlier this month, United States Attorney Eileen M Decker announced the launch of an outreach program that targets the growing opioid epidemic in California.

A partnership between the US Attorney’s Office, law enforcement, and public health officials will involve programs and discussions at local colleges, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The program will address the nonmedical use of prescription drugs and use of illicit opioids, such as heroin, in California. It will focus on discussing the threat to public health, and outline an approach to save lives in order to reduce the effects that drug use may have on the community.

“The increased use of heroin and opioids has infected communities from coast to coast and in many neighborhoods within our district. At the United States Attorney’s Office, we are committed to stemming the flow of illegal opioids and heroin both in the courtroom and in the community,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Prosecutors in my office have targeted drug traffickers who import heroin and doctors who issue prescriptions for addictive painkillers without any medical purpose.

“We are working with our law enforcement colleagues to develop new strategies to investigate drug trafficking organizations that import and distribute opioids and heroin, to better track prescription drugs that may be diverted to street users, and to confront new challenges that include the increasing abuse and death rates associated with even more powerful narcotics such as fentanyl. Our enforcement efforts have helped reduce the availability of opioids on the street and have had a deterrent effect, particularly in the medical community.”

The events held at these college campuses are designed to educate this vulnerable population about the dangers of prescription drugs and the presence of counterfeit drugs. Efforts in New Jersey have banned the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and possession of derivatives of fentanyl, a potent opioid.

Legally prescribed fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The illegal derivatives of the drug are typically more potent than the prescribed version, and have caused numerous deaths.

The events at the campuses will also teach students what to do in the event of an overdose, the Department of Justice said. The students will be able to view clips from a film that illustrates the harsh realities of opioid use disorder.

A recent study discovered that younger adults were more likely to use opioids and heroin compared with older adults. The use of these drugs increased as much as 9-fold from 2002 to 2014, which shows an overwhelming need for interventions.

After the first few presentations, California prosecutors hope the idea of these presentations will spread throughout the state. They also hope to receive feedback from the public on what else can be done to combat the opioid epidemic.

“Law enforcement agencies throughout the country are seizing record amounts of heroin and other opioids and first responders are witnessing the devastating effects of these substances in numbing proportions,” said Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent in Charge John S. Comer. “DEA will continue to target the illicit trafficking organizations responsible for these detriments, but we’re also committed to educating the public about the dangers of drug misuse and reducing demand — awareness is a crucial element in combatting this epidemic.”