According to a report by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the opioid addiction epidemic is only growing bigger and deadlier each and every year. According to their 2016 report, which can be found here, the statistics are getting a bit scary:
- Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
- Opioids are chemically related to, and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
- Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
- Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
- It is estimated that 23% of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.
- Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.
- From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.
- In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
- Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.
- 94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”
What Can Be Done about opioid addiction?
Once the signs of an addiction or problem with opioid pill use have been detected, whether by friends and family or a health care professional, it is time to take action. Fortunately, treatments are available to that can address the problems that drug addictions created and that can help overcome drugs’ powerful and disruptive effects. There are medications that can be given to fight the effect of addiction and to help with the withdrawal symptoms and there are also several behavioral and cognitive therapies and treatments that can also be used. The best treatment plans use a combination of these treatments and therapies and work with each individual on a case by cases basis to determine what treatments and assistance is best for them and their unique situation. A number of factors outside the medication and the individual themselves need to be considered as they can impact not only the chance of an addiction and the severity of an addiction but also their recovery. These include: pre-existing medical condition, mental disorders, behavioral problems, past trauma, and current situation and environmental factors. It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work as well or at all for someone else which increase the complexity of treating opioid addiction and makes preventing addiction and overdose all the more involved and complicated.
The crisis is real and it is growing at a steady rate- something has to be done now to break this cycle!
“About 11.5 million Americans age 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in 2016, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. About 948,000 or 0.3% of the US population age 12 and up used heroin in 2016. People who become dependent on pain pills may switch to heroin because it is less expensive than prescription drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that half of young people who inject heroin turned to the street drug after abusing prescription painkillers, also that three in four new heroin users start out using prescription drugs. The number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased 533% between 2002 and 2016, from an estimated 2,089 in 2002 to 13,219 in 2016” (CNN).
If we want this to change, we must take action now and make sure opioid addiction and abuse is no longer a silent threat that no one wants to talk about. Our firm has set up an Office of Governmental Affairs, that is working with local, city, and state governments all across the USA in helping to combat the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our nation.