Martinsville Memorial taking steps to combat increasing opioid overdoses

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - Doctors in the ER at Memorial Hospital say since last summer, they have noticed an increase in patients using opioids or heroin.

At a news conference on Thursday, Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn announced that the Martinsville-Henry County area is now the number one area in the state for opioid and heroin overdoses.

"Already this year, starting in the month of February, we've seen about a 40 percent increase and that's year to date," said ER Director Dr. Tonya Hodges.

While that number may seem shocking, she said it's not.

"We've seen opioid uses. In the early 90s, there was lots of drug trafficking and stuff in this community," Hodges explained.

One of the reasons for the increase now may be that it's getting harder for users to get pain medication from their doctors.

Dr. Richard Perren, an attending physician in the ER, said that is leading to an increase in people self-medicating.

"The trend in medicine is to back off in terms of chronic pain," Perren pointed out. "So, a lot of patients who have had chronic pain or who had issues with chronic pain are having difficulty finding their narcotics and as a result, they're using medications that come from the street."

Backing off the amount of medication prescribed is what the hospital started doing last summer when it began noticing an increase in opioid and heroin use and Perren believes it's for the better even though the patient may not be happy.

"We're taking care of the individual and not taking care of the satisfied patient," Perren said.

Because of the increasing amount of opioid and heroin use, he now prescribes the potentially life-saving drug Narcn to the families of overdose patients and he recommends anyone who has a family member struggling with opioid or heroin addiction have Narcn readily available.

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