The opioid epidemic is here, and the numbers are chilling. Opioids are affecting more than 92 million Americans as of 2015 with over two million reporting that they are addicted to opioid-containing drugs. And that number is rising.
Unfortunately, the number of adults who are prescribed opiate-containing drugs each year is very large. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine uncovered that over 38 percent of adults in America were prescribed opioids in 2015. No longer is opioid misuse most prevalent in rural areas; the epidemic is hitting suburbs and urban areas just as hard.
The unfortunate reality of opioid addiction in rural areas is that there is limited access to emergency care in the event of an overdose, and the doctors in these areas aren’t as well-equipped to deal with addictions.
A Cry for Help
The epidemic has reached crisis levels as the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction asked President Trump to declare a national emergency this July. Not only would this declaration drive home the severity of the problem, but it could also inspire legislation that would support easier access to addiction treatment.
142 Americans die each day from opioid addiction. If the president acts on the Commission’s recommendations for easier access to in-home addiction care and mandates that all law enforcement carry naloxone (a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdose), that could go a long way toward improving overdose numbers.
An Over-Prescription Problem
The heart of the issue lies in the over-prescription of opioid pain killing drugs. A new government study suggests that the United States should help curb the excessive prescription of opioids and instead focus time and energy improving access to other pain management techniques.
The study also revealed the opioid abuse is more common for low-income Americans or those without jobs or health insurance. Unfortunately, people aren’t learning about the risks associated with opioid abuse because they aren’t under primary care supervision.
Big Pharma’s Contribution to the Crisis
So, how did prescription painkillers become so prevalent? A lot of it has to do with how effective the drugs are. Often, a prescription painkiller is the only thing that can help with the residual pain from an invasive surgery. For some people, opioids are the only way to manage their illnesses and give them quality of life.
Unfortunately, these painkillers are also highly addictive and can be very habit-forming. The government has kept them very lightly regulated so that people who need them can get easy access to them. However, this has also allowed them to become easily abused. In 2014 the number of people who died from opioid abuse exceeded the number of Americans who were murdered that year.
Pharmaceutical companies have mostly added fuel to the fire of opioid misuse, even lobbying to keep drugs lightly regulated. In fact, these companies can outspend many groups who are trying to tighten regulations on drugs; keeping them easy to access and keeping them in the hands of people who are addicted.
What’s Being Done to Help?
Overall, legislation on the topic of opioids has been slow and mostly ineffective, and Americans are suffering. Access to treatment will be the key differentiator in the fight against opioid addiction. You can read more about the federal plans to combat opioid abuse, including developing abuse-deterrent opioids, improving Health IT, and enacting other medical coverage changes.
ARISE Network seeks to make a difference in the lives of those affected by opioid abuse. We empower change in the lives of the people we help, and our intervention process has been extensively researched and studied by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Our process has a demonstrated 83% success rate within three weeks.