Commentary: Change the Script: End opioid misuse

Megan Albanese, STEPS Coalition outreach manager

Change the Script is a Connecticut public awareness campaign to help communities address the prescription drug and opioid misuse crisis. It connects town leaders, healthcare professionals, treatment professionals, prevention professionals and everyday people with the resources they need to face prescription opioid misuse.

The branding for “Change the Script” represents a two-fold approach: to raise awareness with prescribers on the dangers of opioid misuse and overprescribing and to rewrite the longstanding public stigma of discussing addiction problems openly.

There are three key messages from the campaign:

1) Knowledge is power. Keep yourself up to date and educated on the latest research surrounding opioids and addiction by visiting www.ct.gov/dmhas.

2) Be your own advocate. Talk to your doctor openly and honestly. When being prescribed an opioid, ask for different options for managing pain and treatment options. Alternatives can include physical therapy, exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), meditation or acupuncture.

In addition, if you are the caregiver or guardian of a young person, be aware of what is being prescribed to them as well. Opioids are commonly prescribed to young people after wisdom teeth are extracted or to help with pain after a sports related injury. Is it necessary? Is it a minimal amount? Have the conversation with pediatricians and doctors about risk of addiction that comes with the use of opiates.

3) Help change the stigma around addition. Understand that addiction is a disease. Like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. Once the brain has been changed by addiction, most experts believe that the person loses control of their behavior.

The Change the Script campaign was originated from the State’s Targeted Response (STR) to the opioid epidemic. The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) was able to fiscally support the efforts by designating grant funds to local prevention coalitions. The STEPS Coalition has been the recipient of two STR grants thus far.

With a portion of the funds received from the STR Grant, the STEPS Coalition will be hosting a Naloxone training at the end of March at the Southington Police Department. Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a medication called an “opioid antagonist” that used to counter the effects of opioid overdose. Specifically, naloxone is used in opioid overdoses to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally.

We encourage Southington residents to join us to learn more about addiction and this life-saving drug. A nalaxone training session will be held on Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m., at the Southington Police Department, 69 Lazy Ln. Registration is required, so contact me as soon as possible.

Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or albanesem@southington.org.

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