Addiction – Seen From the Eyes of an Emergency Room Doctor

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It is no secret that alcohol, drug and substance abuse is alarmingly common in Carbon and Emery counties. According to Castleview Hospital Emergency Room Doctor Travis Engar, local physicians encounter patients who suffer from addiction on a daily basis.

Although the figure is not documented, Dr. Engar estimates 7% of chronic illnesses seen in the local emergency room are related purely to addiction. “Mostly, it is prescription medication abuse that we see here,” Dr. Engar explained. “Patients will come in with complaints of uncontrolled pain. Many of these patients have already been prescribed pain medication from other doctors, but they come in seeking more in the ER. This is the most common addiction we see.”

However, this is not the only addiction that emergency room doctors treat at Castleview Hospital. “We see a lot of methamphetamine cases come through,” Dr. Engar stated. “We also have a fair amount of heroin related visits. Right now, heroin is cheap and its use has increased.”

A relatively new drug hitting the streets is called krokodil (pronounced crocodile). Recently, two cases have been confirmed in northern Utah. The drug is known to cause a gangrene infection in its final stages. Users who binge on krokodil experience massive damage to skin and muscle tissue. Essentially, it is a flesh-eating drug.

The recent confirmation of krokodil in Utah has many local residents worried. However, Dr. Engar confirmed that there have been no emergency room visits related to this drug at Castleveiw Hospital. “It’s a fad, similar to spice that we saw a few years ago,” he explained. “Hopefully, the drug doesn’t make its way to the area. It’s like shooting Kerosene straight into your vein. It just goes to show the power of addiction.” He added that Krokodil is often made using gasoline and users of the drug have a life expectancy of two years.

According to Dr. Engar, pill popping parties have become quite common among local youth. “Kids are grabbing handfuls of pills from their medicine cabinets and taking them to parties,” explained the ER doctor. “Most of the time, the kids don’t even know what kind of pills they are consuming. It could be as simple as taking a few of grandma’s heart pills and that could be the end.”

Dr. Engar explained specific signs for parents to look for that may indicate a child is using drugs. These signs include: dropping grades, decreased interest in personal hobbies and interests, association with a new group of friends and increased despondency. “Parents who say my kid would never do that, still need to be on alert,” Dr. Engar warned. “Unfortunately, there are many good kids that get involved with these type of drugs because of curiosity and peer pressure.”

The emergency room doctor also explained that the current cycle of addiction tends to be generational. “Parents who do drugs tend to have kids that do drugs,” Dr. Engar stated. “It’s a generational thing. Parents are passing down their habits to their children.”

Adults are at the front line of prevention. Parents should lead by example and remained informed about their children’s activities and friends.

According to Dr. Engar, education also needs to play a key roll in preventing addiction. “Education needs to start at the junior high level. Actually, the fifth and sixth grade levels,” he said. “If we wait until high school to educate students about addiction, then it’s too late.”

The old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child,” applies to addiction prevention. In this case, it will take a community. Both Carbon and Emery counties need to work together to lower the number of drug related crimes, emergency room visits and even deaths that occur due to some form of addiction.

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