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2018-02-09 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


February 9, 2018  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Palm Harbor temple panel to discuss origins of opiod crisis and where we go now

By BRUCE LOWITT Jewish Press

Barely a generation ago, the problem with pain-killers was that they weren’t readily available and doctors were reluctant to prescribe those that were.

Today the reverse is true – too many of them and just about anyone can get them whether or not they’re needed.

Dan Zsido, training and education coordinator for the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, said 2016, the last year for which complete statistics are available, “was the worst year ever in the United States for drug overdose deaths, more than 64,000 of them due to another huge increase in prescription opioid medication.”

In the 1990s, “articles appeared in medical journals that doctors were under prescribing pain medication,” said Dr. Richard Maza, a Clearwater internist who has had experience in his practice with substance-abuse issues.

“Coincidentally with that, drugs came on the market which were the bulk of the opioids. Purdue Pharma developed a synthetic opioid called OxyContin and marketed it as a safe and effective way to treat pain with no or very little addiction potential. Physicians got lulled into feeling that prescribing opioids was a safe thing to do. And what they did was prescribe too many at a time, or for pain that could be handled by lesser drugs like Tylenol, Advil, Aleve …

“They wrote prescriptions for, say, 30 (pills). The patient used five, there were 25 left and those 25 somehow got out into the general community and were used as what they call ‘diversionary drugs,’ meaning they became available to people who didn’t need them for pain. And it addicted them because one of the side effects is euphoria,” Maza said.

Zsido, a retired lieutenant from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, where he commanded the Narcotics Division, and Dr. Maza, will speak Wednesday evening, March 14, at Temple Ahavat Shalom, 1575 Curlew Road, in Palm Harbor, on “The Opioid Epidemic and How It Hurts You.” The free community program starts at 7 p.m.

“It is clear that the opioid addiction crisis impacts every community, including the Jewish community,” said Ahavat Shalom’s Rabbi Gary Klein. “Over the years I’ve encountered numerous Jewish people who have told me that they or someone in their family is suffering from an addiction, and I have officiated over the past few years at more than several funerals where family members have indicated that the cause of death was an overdose.”

Also speaking are Rochae Zwicharowski, a Certified Recovery Support Specialist and herself a recovering addict, and Laurie Serra, who started the Pinellas County chapter of the Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education task force after her 28-year-old stepson died in 2008 of an unintentional overdose of OxyContin and other drugs. The program is free and open to the public.

Zsido said data is starting to show that the longer someone is on prescription medication the greater the chance the user will fall into misuse of the drug.

“We’ve seen people who have an accident, say they slip and fall, or undergo some sort of procedure and they were on a medication and it resulted in a tolerance, which rolled into an addiction, which rolled into making poor decisions,” Zsido said, “and ultimately they crossed the line and did something and got in trouble. Then there are people who are just experimenting with it.”

Zwicharowski said her message is that addicts “do recover, coming from whatever background.”

“Yes, I am an addict, I am always going to be an addict. But the woman I am today is not the woman I was. I’m a good mother, I’m clean. I’m a productive member of society.”

She is 38, says she’s been sober for 10 years, and has children ages 20, 18 and 16, all of whom she had before she was married.

Before then her children ended up in foster care for a time and she faced large prison sentence for trafficking hydrocodone. But she ended up going into treatment because “the judge saw in me that I really wanted to change.”

Zwicharowski is now an outreach coordinator for Associate Recovery Communities, which provides transitional homes that bridge the gap between substance abuse treatment centers and independence.

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