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Officials Hold Summit to Help Stop Opioid Epidemic

More people die from opiate overdoses than motor vehicle accidents, according to Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director of Columbia Pacific CCO. (pixabay)
More people die from opiate overdoses than motor vehicle accidents, according to Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director of Columbia Pacific CCO. (pixabay)
April 29, 2016

SEASIDE, Ore. - More people die from opiate overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents, according to Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director of the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization.

Koreishi and other health officials held the North Coast Opioid Summit on Thursday in Seaside to address the drug's growing toll. It's a topic of urgent concern for health officials across the nation, and Koreishi said doctors can harness this national spotlight to combat the epidemic.

"I think that there's a lot of energy regarding this, and the awareness regarding this issue is drastically different," she said. "I would say even in the last year than previous. I think, more and more supports to providers in this work are being developed and coming out."

The summit focused on ways the North Coast area of Oregon can reduce the number of opioids in circulation, such as better prescription methods and the proper disposal of unused pills. Speakers also discussed Naloxone, a drug used to treat opiate overdoses. In the last legislative session, Oregon lawmakers expanded access to this overdose antidote.

Dr. Paul Coelho, a pain specialist at the Corvallis Clinic, spoke at the summit about treatments for opioid addiction before patients overdose. He said one promising drug in particular, buprenorphine, works like an opiate on the brain but with one big difference.

"All opioid overdose deaths kill by stopping breathing," he said, "and buprenorphine has much less effect at stopping breathing, but it quenches the craving for the drug."

He said buprenorphine only is available to doctors who obtain waivers, and Coelho encouraged physicians to apply for them.

Koreishi met with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in February to help inform his national strategy for stopping the epidemic. She said Murthy will be issuing a national call to action to fight opiate addiction in the coming months.

"I like to think of it like 50 years ago, when there was a call to action regarding the tobacco use issue," he said. "We're in that similar situation now within our country, that we really have to turn the tide and change things."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR