Archived Story

Project Lazarus

Published 6:16pm Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The sheriff’s department discovered three meth labs and 15 old meth labs in January, and they’ve been active in reducing prescription pill crimes, too.
While everybody knows that meth kills and makes for some really ugly smiles, many people don’t know it’s a crime to share prescription medication with someone who doesn’t have a prescription. When it comes to pain meds, sharing isn’t caring. Sharing can kill. Sometimes people live with chronic pain and don’t have much health insurance, so they’ll try to find ways to ease their pain that might fall outside the lines of the law. Unfortunately in today’s world, there’s always somebody willing to make a profit off of somebody else’s pain.
Project Lazarus, a North Carolina program with a base at the Polk County Health Department that’s led by Marjorie Vestal, takes aim at prescription pill misuse. Even people taking medications legally might be taking them wrong. The project offers a few tips to prevent disaster.
First, it’s vital to know what medications are taken and at what strength the active ingredient might be. This time of year, if a cold occurs, cutting back on the painkillers can be life-saving, as they can interfere with breathing. Project Lazarus recommends taking laxatives, drinking plenty of water and chewing gum to ease the side effects of painkillers.
Knowing all the data on prescribed drugs can save lives, too. Some drugs, like Fentanyl, have particular dangers, and Tylenol can cause liver malfunctions. It’s present in other painkillers, like Vicodin, which can also cause hearing loss. Opane ER is a particularly potent and potentially lethal form of oxycontin, and Project Lazarus warns that there’s no such thing as a morphine patch. A drug called Naloxone can reverse overdose if administered effectively and appropriately; it interferes with the lethal effects of overdose and can be prescribed for anyone who takes high levels of opioids for pain. Emergency overdose response kits also may contain this drug.
Most of all, don’t share pain meds, not for the high and not for the relief, and mixing pain meds with alcohol makes for an internal brew that can kill. Project Lazarus advises keeping meds under lock and key.
Effective communication about such personal things as pain most often happens on a one-to-one, interpersonal basis. The cure will take more than signs and flyers. If you know someone on prescription drugs, let them know the risks and be a bridge to better choices. The sheriff’s department keeps doing its part, and doing it well, but it will take all of us working together to make our community truly healthy.

- Kiesa Kay, Editorial staff,
Tryon Daily Bulletin

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