18 Jul Knowing About the Opioid Crisis and How to Deal With It
The opioid crisis is defined as the rapid increase in the use of non-prescription and prescription opioid drugs in the United States which began back in the late 1990s and has continued throughout the first nearly 20 years of the 2000s. In 2006 alone, over 64,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioid medications.
Opioids are a group of moderately strong analgesics (painkillers) which include:
- Oxycodone and others
These medications have become very popular as formal treatments as well as recreational drugs due to their availability and potency. The danger of these drugs is that they can cause the user to become dependent on them which means that trying to stop using them will result in withdrawal symptoms and that they can also cause tolerance which means that one will have to use more of the drug to achieve the euphoric effect the user was seeking.
Dependence and tolerance can lead to addictive behavior which means that the user continues to take the drug despite experiencing breakdowns in relationships with family members and friends, as well as even getting into trouble with the law or putting their health in danger.
As of 2016, more than 289 million prescriptions were issued for opioid drugs every year. The opioid crisis is then most likely as a result of over-prescribing of these opioid medications.
Current Strategies to Fight the Crisis
In March 2017, President Donald Trump appointed a commission of inquiry on the crisis and on August 10th of the same year declared the country’s opioid crisis a “national emergency”. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the following five aims of their “opioid strategy”:
- To improve patient access to management and recovery services to prevent complications associated with opioid addiction and to help individuals to achieve recovery over the long term.
- Make sure there are enough overdose-reversing drugs and that they are available to people who are more likely to experience or respond to an overdose, especially high-risk populations.
- Improve public health data reporting and collection to strengthen the real-time public health response as the epidemic evolves.
- Support research that improves the understanding of addiction and adequate pain control, identifies appropriate public health interventions to reduce opioid-related complications and leads to the development of new treatments.
- The practice of pain management needs to be advanced to allow access to quality pain care that decreases the burden of pain for individuals and their families while also reducing the recreational use of opioid drugs.
Funding to implement these programs has been made available and those who find themselves in a position where they are addicted to opioid medications are encouraged to make use of the services of rehabilitation centers and pain management clinics.
Rehabilitation centers offer inpatient and behavioral programs where the user can safely withdraw from the drug and make use of counseling services to address any underlying mental health issues or stressors.
Pain management clinics can help the patient with alternative medications and therapies to adequately control their pain. This helps to avoid becoming dependent on a medication that can ultimately result in a patient becoming another victim of the opioid crisis.