The United States is in the midst of its largest public health crisis in history. Opioid addiction has increased astronomically over the past decade with little hope for slowing down. Last year saw a nearly 20% increase in drug overdose deaths compared to 2015. Even more staggering, the latest report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that 1.27 million people checked into hospital emergency rooms or inpatient treatment for opioid-related problems in 2014. That is a 64% increase for inpatient treatment and a 99% increase in ER visits since 2005. So how did we get here?
The Age of Painkillers
Since the 1990s, painkiller prescriptions have been rising almost limitlessly. Backpain?: opioids. Surgery?: opioids. Car accident related whiplash?: opioids. Dentists visit?: opioids. The trend has suggested that doctors nationwide have grown accustomed to prescribing opioids for every time they hear the word “pain.” This has had severe consequences.
When drugs like OxyContin were released to the market, pharmaceutical companies claimed the drugs were less addictive alternatives to morphine. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, at least two states are filing lawsuits against major pharmaceutical companies for deceiving doctors and patients. Ohio and Missouri both claim that drug makers fraudulently mismarketed opioids, exaggerating their benefits while understating the risks.
Opioid painkillers have proven themselves to be just as addictive as heroin. In fact, most heroin addicts claim that their addiction first started with a visit to the doctor. In the past few years, states have begun to limit and regulate a number of prescription opioids being given for pain. This is due to the revelation that these prescriptions ultimately lead to powerful addictions. Unfortunately, though, these regulations have only lead to people seeking alternatives to their prior legal prescriptions.
Why Are People Going To The ER?
Let’s look at one state, for example. Last month, Maryland released a report that stated opioid-related deaths had quadrupled since 2010. They also stated that deaths related to fentanyl increased 38-fold. The Washington post reported that the state saw 694 drug and alcohol related deaths in 2016, which is extremely alarming compared to 2015 with 393 deaths.
This trend is common across the country. Fentanyl is the lead culprit in overdose deaths. Fentanyl-related synthetic opioids can be up to 10,000 times stronger than morphine, which often takes drug users by surprise. These synthetic painkillers are being used to strengthen and dilute street heroin in order to create more profit. Dealers use these drugs because they are cheaper and easier to obtain than real heroin.
Fentanyl causes severe overdose complications which sometimes are irreversible. The opioid blocker naloxone, also known as Narcan, is used to treat an opioid overdose by blocking the painkiller’s effects on the brain. With fentanyl-related overdoses, Narcan is often not enough. Many first responders have documented 3 or more Narcan injections before pronouncing a patient dead.
What Will It Take to Change?
The opioid crisis is of extreme proportion, which will require extreme measures to control. Some states are beginning to declare the opioid addiction and overdose crisis a public health emergency, but that will not be enough to solve the issue. It is going to require federal action to truly address this epidemic.
Right now, the United States is in the middle of a controversial healthcare dilemma. The US Senate is in the process of devising a bill that very well could be detrimental to the addiction treatment industry. It is aimed at eliminating regulations that require insurance companies to offer mental health and addiction benefits, as well as Obama-era Medicaid expansion.
If Congress passes the proposed healthcare bill, millions could lose health insurance coverage. Addiction treatment has been expanded significantly under ObamaCare and an estimated 2.8 million people received addiction treatment under the Medicaid expansion. The new bill will strip away all of these benefits and is likely to exacerbate the opioid addiction problem.
If we want to solve the opioid crisis, it is going to require significant help from the government. Many people may be discouraged by taxes, but more funding is needed if addiction is going to be addressed effectively. Many addicts cannot afford or do not have access to treatment. So, if people want to help society and reduce the number of drugs on the street, increasing federal funding is the only way to truly solve the problem. Ignoring the epidemic and hoping that police arrest all of the drug dealers will not reduce the demand for drugs.
Proper education, funding for schools and afterschool programs, and funding for harm reduction programs are all additional ways to curb the growing addicting epidemic. Harm reduction programs, like needle exchanges, often open the door to recovery for desperate addicts.
How Pinnacle Can Help
One of the most effective ways to beat addiction is to start recovery at an addiction treatment center. Pinnacle Treatment Center is a comprehensive program that addresses the root causes of addiction and how to overcome it. The staff at Pinnacle include doctors, nurses, and licensed therapists. Pinnacle offers both inpatient and outpatient programs. If you are suffering from drug withdrawal, Pinnacle can comfortably and safely provide detoxification services that include medication-assisted treatment drugs like Suboxone.
Pinnacle provides intensive therapy along with lectures and exercises for life skills and relapse prevention. Patients will be involved in group therapy sessions as well as 12-step groups like NA and AA. Pinnacle will even help manage aftercare planning to ensure their patients remain on the right path after treatment. A well-rounded program like this is the best way to start recovery today and take control of your life.