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MINERAL KING PUBLISHING INC | FSGNEWS.COM | 11 Its own medicine Opioid use, abuse and death have reached epidemic levels in the United States, but in Tulare County public health officials have fared well in managing the problem t e x t b y r e g g i e e l l i s E pidemic is not a term the Centers for Disease Control uses lightly, which is why it is so shocking that the agency uses it to describe opioid addiction and overdose death in America. Opioid over- dose deaths have quadrupled in America since 1999 and is now the second leading cause of unintentional deaths in the coun- try behind only traffic accidents. The difference between opioids and oth- er epidemics is choice. Similar to alcoholism, opioid addiction is not a crime in and of itself. More than half of opioid related deaths are attributed to prescription painkillers. One in five pa- tients are prescribed opioids to manage non-cancer related pain by a doctor. And pharmaceutical companies manufacture more FDA-approved opioids each year as sales have quadrupled since 1999. As of this year, Americans consume four-fifths of the drug's global supply. Detached doctors, money-grubbing manufacturers and a pill-popping public are all to blame in the supply and demand of a disease driven by escapism and capital- ism that continues to spread on a national scale. It has even captured the attention of the White House, causing President Donald Trump to form a commission on the crisis. While Washington politicians search for policy remedies and national health agen- cies research the root of the problem, local officials have been working on the problem for several years. And in Tulare County and the San Joaquin Valley, it seems to be work- ing. LOcaL PUbLIc HeaLtH Opioids are a class of drugs which bind to receptors in the brain and produce feelings of euphoria, calm, and a state of heightened relaxation. The drugs are de- rived from poppy seeds as a synthetic form of opiates, recreational drugs commonly known as heroin and opium. Prescription opioids include morphine, codeine, and fen- tanyl. One of the most common legal forms of the drug in Tulare County is fentanyl, a generic synthetic narcotic used as a fast- acting intravenous anesthesia in operating Painkillers give America a lethal dose of CovEr Story

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