A recent CNN report identified a devastating truth about the current opioid epidemic: opioids are now a bigger killer of Americans than cancer. In 2016 there were 42 000 overdoses of opioids (which include codeine, fentanyl, and heroin). Only 41 000 Americans die from breast cancer each year. The news that opioids are a bigger killer than breast cancer is no surprise for some, and much has been made about the national opioid crisis. In October the President Donald Trump announced from the White House that the opioid crisis was a “National Emergency” and needs to be dealt with immediately.
You might be forgiven for thinking that opioid addiction means heroin addiction. But increasingly that is not the case. Many people afflicted by this were actually prescribed these drugs for their chronic pain conditions by Doctors. When a clamp down on opioid prescriptions swept across America, many were left in the dark, addicted and alone. Talking to the Guardian, Cassie from Cleveland talked about the first time she used opioids for her back pain
“I felt like that’s how I wanted to feel for the rest of my life…I had energy, I was happy, nothing hurt, and it also took away those feelings of feeling, like, out of place. It just numbed me.”
Now 31, Cassie has overcome her addiction and says it was an uphill battle, but she is happy she can help people in a similar situation.
Prescription drug addiction affects thousands of Americans every year and isn’t just limited to opioids. The following drugs can be addictive and may require treatment:
- Opiates – Also called narcotics and prescribed for severe or chronic pain.
- Stimulants – Used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Sedatives – Benzodiazepines used for sleep and to treat anxiety disorders.
The Solution: More Emphasis on Rehabilitation
It might seem like the landscape is dire, or that there is little hope for thousands of patients with prescription drug addiction from the way news outlets have been reporting the issue. But this isn’t true. With better support and a better understanding of the problem, we can make significant inroads into the problem.
A major issue has been the patients who were being prescribed drugs that have the “rug pulled out from under them” so to speak. These patients were taken off prescriptions and had no help to overcome their addiction. The CDC has made this a priority for Doctors, who are now being trained a lot more on how to wean their patients off the drugs.
There are also options for patients who do not have a prescription. Specialist rehabilitation services across the united states do fantastic work with both inpatient and outpatient services. They can take patients on an outpatient basis, where they prescribe a number of different drugs that can help wean addicts off the drugs. They also offer inpatient services, where the person stays at a residential facility with staff for a period of time. The clinician in charge of each patient will make a decision as to what treatment is appropriate for the patient.
With services like these, the opioid epidemic is sure to pass and patients will be free to live addiction-free lives.