Wichita County health experts warn against the dangers of opioids

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - As many as seven people die each month in Wichita County from drug overdoses. Most are from opioids. Local health experts are coming together to put an end to this growing crisis.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 105.2 retail prescriptions for opioids were filled for every 100 people in Wichita County in 2016. Oral surgeon Dr. Sandra Vergara, Dentist Dustin Van Tassel, and Pain Management Physician Dr. Mark Workman came together to inform the public about the dangers of opioids through a free seminar held at Dr. Vergara's Wichita Falls practice – the practice where she stopped prescribing opioids a year ago.

Instead Dr. Vergara has come up with alternatives. She said, "I take my time during consultation to explain to the patient why I'm not giving them narcotics. They are very happy that they have alternatives so that is what I want at other practices."

Van Tassel said there has been a nationwide rise in opioid prescriptions for children ages 11 to 18, which he sees as unnecessary. He stated, "Very rarely do I prescribe opioids. Studies actually show that a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen is more effective in managing pain, especially from a dental perspective."

Workman said that opioids are not all bad, but he teaches those that he works with that they are not the end-all-be-all of pain relief. The pain management physician said, "Chiropractic manipulation, yoga has good data behind it, over the counter medications as long as they're used within packaged directions. Even just going out and walking for exercise is going to be a very good thing to be doing over a long period of time." In addition to a healthy diet, Workman said all of these alternatives would be very affective in relieving pain.

Underage children are getting opioids from their home medicine cabinets that have not been thrown away yet, and Vergara especially wants to teach them about the dangerous effects. She said, "If kids start learning now, they are going to be able to ask their physicians or any kind of health providers 'What are you giving me? What are you prescribing me?', Because we have the right to know."

Van Tassel said the best way to get rid of any leftover medication would be to put it in used coffee grounds or kitty litter, pour water over it, and throwing it in the trash. The coffee grounds and kitty litter would absorb the medication and make it unwanted by anyone that might want to take it.

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