WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Opioid overdoses are at an all time high, and not just nationally. There have been 67 opioid deaths in Wichita County in the past seven months.
Dr. Sandra Vergara is an oral surgeon in Wichita Falls. After attending a meeting over the summer in Vancouver on opioid addiction, Dr. Vergara did research on its effects in the county. The results were troubling and now she's trying to raise awareness.
"This is a problem that is very hard to resolve," Dr. Vergara said. "A whole new culture is going to require a lot of education from us and health providers."
According to the American Thoracic Society, opioid overdose cases in 162 U.S. Intensive Care Units has increased by 34 percent.
In 2009 the average cost of treating I.C.U. overdose patients were $58,517. In 2015, it was $92,408. Cardiologist, Dr. Bradley Samuelson, said there are many reasons why so many doctors still prescribe the drugs.
"A lot of times we give narcotics because A) the patients expect it, and B) we get lazy and don't monitor the amount of narcotics we're giving patients," Dr. Samuelson said.
However, he said there are some instances where it's okay, like cancer.
"Cancer patients have excruciating pain," Dr. Samuelson said. "And I do believe that we should do everything in our power to keep those people as pain-free as we possibly can."
Dr. Vergara said an addiction starts on a pain killer or Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and can lead to heroin use.
"Babies are born already addicted," she said. "They suffer and have to receive narcotics as soon as they are born."
"We need to have prevention," Dr. Samuelson said. "And prevention, I think, is always the best medicine."
"We all need to be together to actually fight against this crisis, this emergency," Dr. Vergara said.
To continue her drive to bring awareness, an event is being held Monday night in the parking lot of her office.
Dr. Vergara will be joined by former users to talk about the dangers of narcotics, and educate the public on some of the recent trends.
It starts at 6:00 p.m. and her practice is located at 1004 Brook Street in Wichita Falls.