The rapidly growing number of people addicted to opioids and heroin is shattering the social fabric of the United States. The epidemic is now being labelled as one of the worst disasters the country has ever faced. Thousands of Americans die every year due to opioid overdose. With hordes of youngsters falling prey to addiction and succumbing to overdoses, a vast number of families and communities have been devastated.
In 2016, approximately 11.8 million people aged 12 or above misused opioids in the past year, including 948,000 users who misused heroin. Additionally, the total number of people in the same age range suffering an opioid use disorder (OUD) was 2.1 million, including 153,000 adolescents. In the light of such adverse consequences, the increase in opioid abuse has been identified as a national emergency by the federal government.
Former U.S. health secretaries – Kathleen Sebelius and Tommy G. Thompson – and Aspen Health Strategy Group director Alan Weil gave some inputs to help bring the opioid crisis to an end. Some of their recommendations are as follows:
- Limiting prescription of opioids: The White House commission has observed and highlighted the patterns of overprescription prevalent among doctors, partly due to lack of awareness about the addictive potential of opioids and alternative practices for the treatment of pain. Restrictions in marketing methods and prescribing practices could bridge the gap between prescribed amounts and actual medical need. The trend of overprescription of opioids can be gauged from the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that opioid prescription increased four times between 1999 and 2015. In the same period, more than 183,000 people died due to an opioid overdose. In order to reduce prescription of opioids, the CDC has updated its website with clinical guidelines. It has recommended opioids only for treating chronic pain.
- Increasing access to addiction treatment: Limited insurance cover is often the main barrier to receiving the treatment for addiction. Besides, doctors often fail to identify the patients misusing opioids when they visit them frequently for refills. The limited availability of high-quality treatment and care for addiction and the associated social stigma prevent many from coming forward for help. Usually, people are wary of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that combines behavioral therapies and less potent opioid drugs, such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone due to the fear of getting trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction. Compared to the standard medications for opioid addiction, extended-release naltrexone has the advantages that it is not subject to misuse or diversion and does not pose a risk of overdose on its own.
- Preventing deaths by providing access to naloxone: Easy access to opioid antagonist naloxone can save millions of lives. Naloxone is an anti-overdose medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Since it works by binding to the opioid receptors, it can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It acts quickly to restore the normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to overdosing on heroin or prescription opioid pain medications. The medical care providers and clinic staff should be mandatorily trained in the technique of administering naloxone. An over-the-counter (OTC) version that can be bought without a prescription is much needed. Currently, a rising number of first responders, including police and fire departments now stock naloxone to treat the victims of overdose.
Treat addiction as health issue
Addiction is often viewed as a moral failing by the society and as a crime by the law enforcement agencies. As scientific research has proven that an addiction is a complex brain disorder, people afflicted with this disease need effective treatment and adequate support.
If you or your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline to get assistance in finding the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online with our representatives to know about the most reputable and comprehensive prescription drug abuse treatment centers in your area.