Opioids are top cause of ‘unnatural’ Fairfax County deaths

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Opioid drug overdoses are killing more people in Fairfax County than car accidents and shootings.

An analysis of Fairfax County emergency room deaths shows, in fact, opioid O.D. deaths are the leading cause of unnatural deaths in the county and their number is increasing.

The data show that the highest rates of these overdoses occur in younger age groups and are equally common among men and women. They occur throughout the county with no geographical or income pattern.

More more data analysis is underway.

Opioid treatment program expands

Meanwhile, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board is expanding its Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) services to support people misusing opioids. MAT uses FDA-approved medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole patient” approach to treatment.

“This is an extraordinarily complex disease, yet we know recovery is possible,” says CSB’s Medical Director, Dr. Colton Hand. “Medical and counseling staff are working side by side to best support our clients’ efforts toward recovery. Our programs are making service delivery changes to help address the epidemic.”

Helping with medication

The primary medication used by MAT is Suboxone. It reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms, as well as reducing the risk of opioid overdose. Suboxone also helps individuals in recovery by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings. Specialized training is required before a physician or nurse practitioner can be authorized to prescribe this medication, which includes a specific DEA waiver. In addition to Suboxone, other services provided include individual and group counseling, outreach and engagement, care coordination, pharmacy, nursing and primary care.

Aiming at relapses

“We do as much as we can to continue to engage people in services, especially during relapses. When someone relapses, they are in a very high risk and vulnerable state. That is the time when a person needs the most support,” says Dr. Hand. “We are working hard to add flexibility to our treatment protocols and take into account critical issues in a person’s life such as employment, housing, transportation, and family obligations. These factors influence both short-term treatment and long-term recovery….Hopefully, there will be more options on the horizon as research continues on substance use disorder treatments. We’ll do our best to continue collaborating, learning and adapting.”



About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.