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    Drug Overdose Fatalities Soar Among Middle-Aged Adults

    By Dr. Trupti Patel and Dr. Beth West – Maryhaven

    Drug overdose isn’t just an issue for the young. In fact, according to data newly released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35-44-year-old adults experienced the highest rates of fatal drug overdose in 2021 and 2022.

    This data sadly echoes our experiences at Maryhaven. We resuscitate people from overdose an average of two to three times a week in our intake area, and the majority of those we serve fall between the ages of 35 and 45.

    There may be a number of reasons why this demographic group represents so many of those at highest risk.

    1– Brain maturity. The desire to recover often does not cause someone to actually enter treatment until after thirty. This connects, in part, to brain development. Humans don’t have the capacity to fully consider the consequences of their decisions until after age 25 — and this functionality can be delayed even more if someone becomes addicted at an early age.

    2– The process of change. Clinicians view the five stages of changes as a way of understanding how people adapt to change. It starts with precontemplation or a lack of awareness that a problem exists and can then move through contemplation and preparation before people act. Further, because addiction is a brain disorder, change is complicated by the chemical and functional ways the brain rewires when addicted. Clients often talk about “hitting bottom,” or reaching a moment where the chaos and pain of everyday life creates a desire for change that overshadows the desire to keep using. This sense of desperation may take years to reach an acute level.

    3– Recovery is often not linear. Long-term sobriety can seem elusive at first. People may relapse a number of times, especially in the initial stages of treatment, and sometimes they lose years before they choose to try again.

    4– Mental Health Challenges. In our post-Covid world, mental health stability has frayed, and for the enticements to self-medicate can be very tempting. The “sandwich generation” as middle-aged adults are often called, may work hard and financially support their household, while also doing double and triple duty as a caregiver for children and aging parents. The stress of juggling an exhausting to-do list can lead to a desire for alcohol or drugs that facilitate sleep, calm anxiety, or help cope with depression. But now those same drugs may be life-threatening as explained below.

    5– Dangerous drugs. Whether someone with an addiction, a recreational or stress drug user, everyone risks overdose now. Drug dealers greedy to create more customers purposefully contaminate or “cut” their product with other highly addictive drugs like Fentanyl. The end user may be unaware of these other substances until it’s too late.

    Maryhaven’s experienced nurse practitioners explain: “I’m constantly seeing patients in intake who admit purchasing oxycodone or heroin, but their toxicology screen comes back positive for Fentanyl.” Or “I see people reporting using Xanax, and it turns out to be Fentanyl more often than not. It’s also very common for people who report using meth (methamphetamines) to actually have unwittingly used a mixture of stimulants such as MDMA (Molly) and cocaine.”

    The safest course is to avoid illicit substances entirely. However, if choosing to use, people should follow best practices in harm reduction:

    — Never use any substance that you didn’t personally procure from a pharmacy or reputable source. Do not trust any off-the-grid supplier, even a family member or friend. Pick up all prescriptions or drugs personally and lock them safely when at home.

    — Use fentanyl test kits. This step will only take a moment and it may save your life.

    — Be sure to only take drugs with someone you trust nearby. Make sure this is ready and capable to use Naloxone (Narcan) to resuscitate you if you overdose.

    Maryhaven serves as part of a statewide network to help distribute Naloxone, and, no matter where you fall in terms of needing help, we’re here for you. Call us at 614-445-8131 or visit maryhaven.com for more information or a direct link to services. We also accommodate 24/7 walk-in detox services at 1430 South High Street.

    Save the Date: Maryhaven will host an International Overdose Awareness event August 1st at our Alum Creek Location. More details available soon.