The growing heroin epidemic is striking all regions of the United States.
While the Northeast and Appalachian regions have been hit the hardest, the St. Louis metro region has also seen the ugly side of heroin abuse and its consequences. Dr. Robert Corley, a physician at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St Louis, can attest to the crisis. Corley sees as many as five or six patients daily who have overdosed from heroin. He is currently working in unison with the St. Charles Fire Department as its medical director. Area firefighters have the ability to treat individuals experiencing overdose with the nasal spray Naloxone, or “Narcan.” Naloxone, which can now be purchased at local pharmacies, is able to reverse the effects of overdoses if administered quickly enough. First responders such as paramedics and police officers are also trained to administer Naloxone.
Dr. Corley has noticed that many of his patients who overdosed had used heroin that was secretly laced with Fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is up to 50 times more potent than regular heroin. Overdoses are only the beginning of St. Louis’s troubles, however. Many people who are addicted to heroin in St. Louis are unable to get access to quality addiction treatment due to a lack of insurance. Medicaid recipients are able to gain access to addiction treatment, but the waitlists are often long and won’t cover the highest levels of care. Lengthy waitlists are the result.
One local hospital is able to offer 3 to 5 day detoxification with a self-pay option in the neighborhood of $4000 if the patient doesn’t have insurance coverage. However, general hospitals aren’t able to effectively treat addiction thereafter and will often refer patients to drug treatment centers.
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