Panel on addiction warns of toxic drug combinations like meth laced with fentanyl

Speakers at a panel discussion called “Trapped in Addiction” addressed substance use among women. From left: Priscilla McIntosh of The Morton Center, Alaina Combs of The Healing Place Women’s Campus and Dr. Sarah Moyer, the city’s chief health strategist. | Photo by Darla Carter

Methamphetamine laced with a powerful opioid is one the hidden dangers of becoming entangled in Louisville’s drug epidemic, according to a panel discussion focused on addiction and substance use among women.

“We’re seeing a huge rise in methamphetamine and not only that, we see a lot of women that come in and they think that they are using one substance, but in reality, there are so many different things mixed into that substance,” said Alaina Combs, continuing care coordinator for The Healing Place Women’s Campus, which serves 250 women on South 15th Street.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness chats with an audience member. | Photo by Darla Carter

The toxic mix includes meth laced with fentanyl, “so folks are overdosing,” Combs said. “These women don’t know what they’re getting.”

Combs was among the panelists at a lunch-and-learn event called “Trapped in Addiction,” hosted by Women 4 Women last Thursday at the Edison Center.

“We do community conversations quarterly as kind of a community outreach, just as a way to connect nonprofits and also let the community know about what issues women are facing,” said Misty Cruse, executive director of Women 4 Women, a nonprofit advocacy and grant-making organization.

Combs was joined by Priscilla McIntosh, chief executive of The Morton Center, and Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

McIntosh said many women who turn to substances, such as alcohol and prescription drugs, are doing it to deal with stress in their lives that they don’t know how to handle.

The center, which serves family members as well as the individual with a substance-use disorder, can be a starting point for people who need information or want to get help.

“Part of our mission is to be able to make sure we have a chair available for anyone that walks through our doors,” McIntosh said. It’s important to be responsive because “if someone is ready for treatment … that window’s going to close really quick.”

Moyer urged the community to take advantage of resources like FindHelpNowKY.org, a treatment locator, and the Naloxone training provided by the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition.

She also cited “Coming Together for Hope, Healing and Recovery,” a report and two-year action plan to address substance use and misuse in the area. It focuses not only on illicit drugs but also tobacco and alcohol.

Moyer talked about the importance of breaking the stigma surrounding substance use and treatment and urged people to be compassionate.

Audience member Kimberly Moore speaks during the panel discussion.

Substance use disorder “really is a chronic brain disease that we’re dealing with,” Moyer said. “It’s not a moral failing,” so remember if you have a relative or loved one with it, “it really is no different than like a cancer diagnosis.”

The audience expressed concern about whether there are enough treatment beds and openings for substance users who need help. Moyer said, “That’s a comment I hear a lot,” but she noted that FindHelpNowKY.org can be a good resource for determining what beds are open, “so check that out.”

Audience member Kimberly Moore urged members of the community and various organizations to work together to help address the drug epidemic and related problems, such as a glut of sober living houses in west Louisville and shootings.

“We’re losing on both ends. We’re losing with the drug addicts. We’re losing with the violence,” she said. ” … “We all just have to buy in and become supportive and be willing to work with each other.”