Early in Lelan Stice’s presentation on opioid addiction to the Rotary Club of West Pine Bluff, he contemplated the way the crisis differs from other sorts of drug problems out of the past.

“Today’s drug epidemic is one that starts in the doctor’s office with a stethoscope,” he said. “We’ve been in the practice, in the healthcare profession, of writing these (prescriptions) way too much, at too high a quantity, and refilling them too many times.”

Stice is the pharmacist and owner of Doctor’s Orders Pharmacy in Pine Bluff, and he also serves as administrative director for pharmacy at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. He spoke at the Pine Bluff Country Club on Thursday at a gathering presided over by Miranda Banks, president-elect of the Rotary Club of West Pine Bluff.

Stice outlined elements of the opioid problem — both locally and nationally — and he noted some actions people can take, such as making use of a statewide program to take back unused drugs. He also said those who know people in danger from opioid use may purchase and administer naloxone, often known by the brand name Narcan.

Stice referred to an Arkansas program, approved by the state Legislature and activated last September, that allows people in danger from opioid use — along with those who know people who might be — to buy naloxone without a doctor’s prescription. A document called “Arkansas Naloxone Protocol,” outlining the program, is available through the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy’s website.

Naloxone, Stice said, reverses the effect of the opioid, but he added: “Narcan (naloxone) is only effective for a couple of hours, whereas the opioids are effective for about four to six hours.”

That means it’s necessary to 911, he explained, after administering naloxone.

Stice said the Narcan-brand spray costs about $150 for two doses, and his pharmacy has it in stock. A generic brand costs $75 for two doses and may be ordered and received within one work day, he said.

The websites for the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy and for the initiative Arkansas Take Back provide updates — including counts of lives saved — connected with naloxone and other approaches to the opioid problem.

Stice presented a number of statistics as he explored the problem of opioid addiction, at one point noting a rise in drug overdoses among adolescents since 1999. According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the death rate due to drug overdose among adolescents aged 15–19 more than doubled from 1999 (1.6 per 100,000) to 2007 (4.2), declined by 26% from 2007 to 2014 (3.1), and then increased in 2015 (3.7).”

Fentanyl, Stice said, poses particular dangers and is now being sold on the streets.

“Fentanyl didn’t used to be a problem on the street, but it has become a problem,” he said. “The dangerous thing about fentanyl is that fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin … And so just a little bit of fentanyl can kill somebody the first time if they’re naive (about) narcotics.”

Stice also mentioned the Arkansas Take Back initiative that allows residents to drop off drugs that are no longer needed. He noted the dangers of leaving drugs in the home — or of disposing of them in ways that allow them to be recovered. And flushing drugs down a drain, he said, can create contamination problems.

Stice said three take-back sites exist in Jefferson County, with a fourth planned to open up. The existing sites include one in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, one in the White Hall Police Department and one at Doctor’s Orders Pharmacy at 2302 W. 28th Ave. Stice said the Rotary Club of West Pine Bluff donated money and labor to install the box at the Doctor’s Orders Pharmacy site, and he said Tommy May, chairman of the Simmons Foundation and former chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corporation, donated four boxes to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office site.

Stice also mentioned a couple of potentially helpful apps. One is called NARCAN Now, available for iOS devices. He also noted a website with information about helping someone in danger at https://opirescue.com. It’s a site that has information of its own, and it also allows a person to download an app for iPhones or Androids.

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