Opioid use on the farm (Mental Health Awareness)
(Editor’s note: Jeanette Jeffrey is a Family and Consumer Sciences agent for University of Maryland Extension, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties. This is the third article in a four-part series for The Delmarva Farmer by the University of Maryland Extension for Mental Health Awareness Month. An expanded group of articles will be posted online throughout May at www.go.umd.edu/farmstressmanagement.)
The old adage “No rest for the weary” rings true for many farmers.
When livestock need feeding or crops need to be put in the ground calling out sick just isn’t possible.
Working through pain, illness and injury is more the norm, not the exception, when it comes to farmers and agricultural workers.
Not surprisingly, pain-relieving opioids found their way to the farm.
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies were hard-selling opioids to doctors with the reassurance that these drugs were non-addictive.
Doctors, in turn, were writing opioid prescriptions in great numbers to their patients for pain management.
With its ease of availability, opioid usage skyrocketed in the United States before its addictive properties were made known. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
• Roughly 21-29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
• Between 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.
• An estimated 4-6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
• About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated:
• 841,000 people died since 1999 from a drug overdose.
• In 2019, 70,630 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, 70 percent involved opioids.
Rural communities have been particularly hard hit by the opioid public health crisis.
Due to few healthcare facilities and/or treatment centers that specialize in addiction disorders in rural areas, those in need of care may experience limited access to services.
The stigma that surrounds addiction also prevents many from seeking help for fear of judgement or rejection from family and community members.
An unintended consequence occurred due to COVID in that many healthcare services moved online, increasing both availability and accessibility.
If you or someone you know is in need of education, assistance or treatment for opioid use disorder, please refer to the following resources.
Recovery is possible.
• Rural Maryland: MarylandROTA Rural Resources Directory: https://marylandrota.org/local-resources/
• Delmarva Resources:Adult and Teen Challenge Delmarva: https://delmarvateenchallenge.org; Addition Medical Solutions Delaware, LLC: https://amsdelaware.com; Connections Community Support Programs, Inc: https://www.connectionscsp.org; Chesapeake Treatment Services: https://chesapeaketreatmentservices.com; Hudson Behavioral Health: https://hudsonhealth.org
• Statewide/national: SMART Recovery: https://www.smartrecoverytest.org/local/; SAMHSA National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline; US Department of Health & Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/iea/partnerships/opioid-toolkit/federal-resources/index.html; Maryland BHA: https://bha.health.maryland.gov/OVERDOSE_PREVENTION/Pages/Get-Help-Now-2.aspx.