Dr. Stephen Goggans gave this somber message at an annual community forum hosted by the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network: the opioid problem in Augusta is very real.
Goggans, district health director for the East Central Health District, said one of the trends seen from Georgia Department of Public Heath data is the rising number of opioid overdose deaths.
“The deaths of opioid overdose continue to rise. At the same time, the prescription use of opioids is dropping and has been for a few years,” said Goggans, adding that the focus for those healthcare professionals combating the epidemic should not only be on overdose and overdose deaths, but on treating people who are or might become addicted to opioids. “However, we had a long number of years with opioid prescribing going up and a lot of people being exposed, a lot of people becoming addicted or misusing. Now, we are seeing the consequences of that in the overdoses.”
According to the agency’s data and Goggans, there were about 60 deaths linked to opioids in Augusta in 2017. Goggans said the opioid problem in Augusta is big, but, luckily, not as intense as other areas around the country.
In an attempt to combat the epidemic, the College of Nursing at Augusta University has begun teaching nurse practitioner and nursing students ways to address it. Dr. Caroline McKinnon, assistant professor at the College of Nursing, said that the college has developed educational programs for students on helping patients that have been impacted by the epidemic.