THE TOOLS AT HAND
There is little doubt that today’s opioid epidemic has done much harm within America.
Addiction has torn apart relationships and families, leaving people hurt, confused, and most of all questioning how a drug designed to be helpful can be so harmful.
It leaves us to wonder: Who should take responsibility for the proliferation of opioid use and abuse?
Even if no one takes ownership of the epidemic and the damage it has caused in recent years, the fight to contain it is as strong as ever – particularly within Congress and the White House. In an unusual case of unity, both branches agree that something needs to be done about the large number of prescription pills funneling through America.
All that’s missing is the money. To combat this problem the president has asked Congress to provide $1.1 billion, money that both sides acknowledge simply isn’t available.
OPIOID ABUSE AND ITS CHECKERED PAST
According to a July 2016 article1 which appeared on the Vox Explainers website, the recent case of opioid addictions across the country began in the 1990s.
Back then, many more doctors believed in the need to treat pain as a serious medical issue. To that end, the big pharmaceutical companies took great efforts to confront pain management in Americans via large marketing campaigns advertising increasingly powerful painkillers.
Big pharma targeted doctors and encouraged them to prescribe opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet in large amounts for any type of pain from acute to long-term chronic pain. Even as findings at the time revealed neither drug was appropriate for long-term pain, it was shown that both painkillers function best with acute short-term pain ailments.
But because of the proliferation of doctors prescribing opioids to anyone with any pain affliction, the recreational use of the drugs quickly rose as kids found them in their parents’ medicine cabinets. Soon, the drugs would appear on the black market and a new epidemic was born.
As a result, opioid-related deaths rose to a record high of 19,000 in 2014.
Law enforcement responded by cracking down on doctors who prescribed the opioids with threats of incarceration and the loss of their practices and licenses.
Of course, more notable than the arrest of the doctors themselves was the fact that making opioids less available to addicts would cause a rise in heroin use. With that increase, 2014 saw more than 10,000 deaths linked to heroin overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2010 to 2013 the number of overdoses tripled.
SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Though Congress and the White House seem to agree that something must be done to fight opioid abuse, President Obama’s relatively modest request for $1.1 billion in new spending to wage the fight was struck down.
Of that amount, Obama proposed:
- $920 billion go to states based on the severity of their epidemic and strategy, such as expanding affordable and accessible medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.
- $50 million to give greater access to substance abuse treatment professionals, which would help bolster the practices of approximately 700 providers.
- $30 million to research and evaluate medication-assisted treatment in real-world conditions.
- $90 million in funding and research for both the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services that have programs designed for treatment and prevention.
If future budget requests continue to be denied, new approaches to the opioid epidemic will have to be made. Two current noteworthy approaches, which ironically derive from the medical field, include:
- Administration of alternative pain-relieving medicine and/or methods such as medical marijuana, topical painkillers, aspirin of various strengths, as well as massage therapy and exercise.
- Most American medical schools now offer classes and training to their students in drug addiction detection and treatment.
Maybe in light of addictions and/or deaths due to prescription opioid painkillers, particularly with doctors, law enforcement, government and the White House collectively doing all they can to stem this affliction, the focus of opioid addiction and death should shift to the pharmaceutical companies.
Even with the good that big pharma can provide pain sufferers, maybe they’re still the ones who need a bit more scrutiny.
If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.
- Congress just passed a big bill to fight the opioid epidemic. But there’s a catch, Vox. Retrieved 2016.