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Shore’s opioid fatality rates should begin conversation

The death rate due to opioid overdose for Northampton County was 25.7%, and Accomack County was 12.4% in 2020, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

September was National Opioid Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control define an opioid as a natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic chemical that interacts with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain which reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain.

This class of pain-relieving drugs includes heroin, fentanyl, and even prescriptions such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

Prescription opioids are generally considered safe to use for a short period and when under the supervision of a doctor, however, because it produces a euphoric state in the body, overuse can lead to the potential for addiction.

Anyone who takes a prescription opioid has the potential to become addicted. When opioids are consumed at an excessive rate, there becomes a risk of overdose death. 75% of all overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid.

In a tight-knit community like the Eastern Shore, it can be easy to adopt the ‘it would never happen here’ mentality. But statistics show the opioid epidemic is, in fact, ‘happening here.’

So now the question becomes: What can we do about it? One of the easiest things that we can do is to start talking about it.

The more we talk about opioids and their addictive potential and the side effects of abuse and misuse, the less stigmatizing it becomes. This potentially can make it easier for those suffering from a substance use disorder to seek out help.

We can also make ourselves more aware of the resources that are available in our community such as safe prescription medication disposal boxes that are available at several police stations on the Shore, as well as medication disposal bags available for free at the Community Services Board Prevention Office in Belle Haven.

These pouches are easy to use and the most effective way to discard old or unused prescription medications. The Community Services Board office of Prevention also offers REVIVE! opioid overdose reversal training courses. These courses teach how to recognize the signs of an overdose, how to administer Narcan, as well as how to get appropriate professional help. This course takes about an hour to complete.

Did you know that the Community Services Board also offers substance use outpatient services at its two Parksley locations? They are staffed by one dually credentialed licensed clinician, one licensed eligible clinician, and one Certified Substance Abuse Counselor.

Additional supports are also offered to individuals such as Case Management, Peer Recovery Services, and even Medicated Assisted Recovery support.

For additional resources and information please visit the Eastern Shore Community Services Board’s webpage,

For REVIVE! training please visit