**If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, dial 911 or the anonymous national hotline for assistance.**
The opioid crisis has deeply affected communities across the United States, including here in Lynchburg, Virginia. Behind the disheartening statistics lie stories of individuals and families struggling with addiction, or substance use disorder. Lynchburg community members are grappling with the devastating consequences of opioid abuse, leading to a pressing need for understanding, support, and effective solutions.
Key Statistics to Know about the Opioid Crisis in Lynchburg, VA
The opioid crisis in Lynchburg, VA, continues to pose a significant threat to the community’s well-being. Key statistics highlight the severity of the crisis and emphasize the urgent need for action. According to reporting from FAACT and Above the High:
- Half of all opiate-related EMS incidents were originally mistreated as general behavioral/mental health issues
- Fentanyl was responsible for over 70% of opioid overdoses in 2021
- The most impacted age range is between 40-49
- Most opioid-related incidents in our area occur between 8-10PM
- The city of Lynchburg is approaching 300 opioid-related incidents this year to date (as of August 2023)
Understanding these key statistics is crucial in recognizing the severity of the opioid crisis in Lynchburg and the need for comprehensive strategies to address it. By acknowledging the scale of the problem, community leaders, healthcare providers, and organizations can work together to implement effective solutions and support those affected by the crisis.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids, a class of drugs traditionally derived from the opium poppy plant, are powerful pain relievers that have been used for centuries to alleviate severe pain. In recent years, manufactured opioids like fentanyl, have become increasingly more affordable to create — and in turn, more widespread. These drugs interact with opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking pain signals and producing feelings of euphoria. While opioids can be highly effective in managing pain, they also carry a significant risk of addiction and abuse. Opioids can be prescribed by physicians, or they can be manufactured and distributed illegally.
How Did the Opioid Crisis Arise?
The opioid crisis in Lynchburg, VA did not arise overnight, and it’s not isolated to just our area. So, what caused the opioid crisis? Well, it’s complicated. Many factors have contributed to a surge in opioid use nationwide, with deaths related to opioid use quintupling since 1999. Without addressing the reasons opioid use is spiking, it will be a massive challenge to address this crisis.
- Legal, well-intended prescribed opioid use. Many addicts were initially prescribed opioids for legitimate medical reasons, such as managing chronic pain. However, these medications are highly addictive, and some individuals find themselves dependent on them, even when their original medical condition has resolved. This dependency can spiral into profound substance abuse, as individuals seek to alleviate withdrawal symptoms or achieve a euphoric high.
- Increased availability of opioids. The accessibility and affordability of black-market opioids also contribute to the crisis. When individuals become addicted to prescription opioids and can no longer obtain them legally, they may turn to the black market to fulfill their cravings. Heroin, a cheaper and more readily available alternative, often becomes the drug of choice for individuals struggling with addiction.
- Economic turmoil. In the last several decades, the country and our community alike experienced significant fluctuations in economic stability. As a result, many community members lost stable employment. There’s an undeniable connection between unemployment and opioid use, and in times of widespread financial hardship, opioid-related incidents cases tend to rise.
- Lack of affordable treatment options. Recovering from addiction can be extremely costly. Residential treatment is expensive, and comprehensive outpatient therapies aren’t always affordable, either.
To address the opioid crisis in Lynchburg, a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach is needed. At Community Access Network, we do our best to meet the needs of our patients where they are. We’re passionate about working with partner organizations so we can offer a safe, helpful environment to anyone who walks through our doors, regardless of what they’re struggling with. With a concerted effort from community leaders, healthcare providers, and specialized nonprofit organizations, Lynchburg can work towards reducing the devastating impact of the opioid crisis and create a healthier and more vibrant community.
The Psychology and Biology Behind Substance Use Disorder
The psychology and biology behind substance use disorder (SUD) are complex and multifaceted, contributing to the destructive nature of opioid addiction.
Opioids alter the brain’s chemistry and functioning, leading to addictive behaviors and a vicious cycle of dependence.
At the biological level, opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs, such as the gastrointestinal tract. This interaction triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. With continued opioid use, the brain’s reward system is hijacked, and the person experiences intense euphoria and a strong desire to repeat the pleasurable experience. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of opioids and may require larger doses to achieve the same effect. This phenomenon, known as tolerance, reinforces the compulsive use of opioids and increases the risk of overdose.
The psychology of addiction is closely intertwined with biological factors. While individuals may initially turn to opioids for pain relief or to cope with emotional distress, the reinforcing effects of the drug can quickly overpower one’s ability to control use. This is especially true for individuals who have pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as a family history of addiction or a history of trauma.
Furthermore, certain life experiences, such as chronic stress, social isolation, or exposure to violence, can shape an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. These factors can disrupt the brain’s normal functioning and influence the development of maladaptive coping mechanisms, leading to a higher risk of substance abuse.
Understanding the psychology and biology behind substance use disorder is crucial for providing effective treatment and support to individuals grappling with opioid addiction.
Help Is Available: Supporting Individuals Affected by the Opioid Crisis
Opioid addiction knows no boundaries and affects individuals across diverse backgrounds. County-level data suggests that the crisis has affected Campbell County, Bedford County, and other nearby rural counties as well. But even though the opioid crisis is significantly impacting our community, help is available.
There is help for opioid addiction in Central Virginia. Organizations throughout Lynchburg, VA offer a range of support and treatment services to assist those struggling with opioid use disorder in their journey toward recovery and healing. At Community Access Network, we partner with organizations that specialize in supporting recovery. We are always here to provide a listening ear and point you in the direction of resources that can help.
One organization that provides comprehensive support is Horizon Behavioral Health. They offer a variety of treatment services tailored to the unique needs of individuals dealing with opioid addiction. From outpatient opioid addiction treatment to medication-assisted treatment, Horizon Behavioral Health is committed to guiding individuals toward recovery. Their programs focus not only on addressing the physical aspects of addiction but also on providing mental health services to ensure holistic healing. In addition to treatment-focused programming, their initiative, Above the High, focuses on providing educational resources so our community can better understand substance abuse disorder, including free training.
The Lynchburg Comprehensive Treatment Center is another valuable resource for those seeking help in overcoming opioid addiction. As an adult treatment center, they offer specialized services to address the specific challenges faced by individuals in the Lynchburg community. With a team of dedicated professionals, the center provides evidence-based treatment approaches, including counseling and medication-assisted treatment, to assist individuals throughout recovery. They understand that each person’s path is unique and strive to provide personalized care and support every step of the way.
It is important to remember that seeking support and treatment for opioid addiction is not a sign of weakness, but rather an act of strength and self-care. No one should have to face the challenges of opioid addiction alone. By reaching out to us, or organizations like Horizon Behavioral Health or the Lynchburg Treatment Center, individuals can access the guidance, resources, and support needed to navigate recovery.