Fighting Drug Addiction in CNY: Tackling a Growing Epidemic

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The rampant opioid epidemic is a very complex problem that has been on the rise in Central New York and across the country. Professionals on all levels are doing their part to fight it and to find a way to decrease its use and the problems that arise from it.

“We’re right in the middle of [the opioid epidemic],” Congressman John Katko said. “And although we certainly have quite a way to go—seeing a vertical escalation of synthetic heroin-abuse even after the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016—a vaccine currently in development serves as a hopeful diamond in the rough.

The Division of Infectious Disease at SUNY Upstate Medical University has teamed up with the Department of Defense and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to come up with this vaccine. Dr. Stephen Thomas is part of the pre-clinical development and hopes to transition to human testing sometime next year.

The idea is that it will nip opioid addiction in the bud notwithstanding whatever potential factor(s) that had caused the individual to abuse. Once the vaccine is taken, the individual will develop an immune response to it—much like a flu shot—so that when they use again afterwards, their antibodies will block the opioids’ intended effects. Although this only helps “manage that one slice of the bigger issue,” says Thomas, “we think it’ll be a powerful, powerful tool.”

Opioid-abuse is not bound to the back alleys in which people often attribute it. Katko describes it as ubiquitous. In fact, 1/3 of opioid-related deaths in New York have involved prescription meds.

For Dr. Tim Endy, the issue, he says is personal. He and his wife saw firsthand the struggle of getting their son into the right recovery program.  After a four-year struggle with heroin-addiction, they were able to find the right care for their son. He’s now been sober for three years.

“The challenges that people with substance-abuse disorder face in our community,” explains Endy, “is getting access to care.” Often recovery programs are short-term, and relapse-rates are high,” he adds. 

Endy and his wife have started a charity called Road2RecoveryCNY, a non-profit organization that funds individuals to go into long-term programs. Since the charity started last year, it has sent sixteen people to long-term recovery programs. To learn more about the organization and how you can help, visit Road2RecoveryCNY.com.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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