22 Oct The Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time. With more than 130 people dying every day from overdosing on opioids, it is now at the forefront of political talks. Opioid abuse has destroyed many lives and families. What was once marketed as a magical pill for pain relief without addictive properties, soon became the start of an epidemic of substance abuse. Currently, there is a strong effort to prevent the opioid crisis from worsening and finding ways to help those who have been affected by the crisis.
The opioid crisis started in the late 1990s when researchers assured physicians that opioids did not have addictive side effects. As a result, doctors began prescribing opioids in greater quantities to patients suffering from pain. At the time, pain management was not a field of study, and there were very few advances in alternative pain treatments. Opioids did turn out to be highly addictive. However, by the time the medical community realized the damage they caused, it was too late. Every year that passed, more and more people were abusing and overdosing on the very pills meant to calm their pain.
About one-quarter of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up abusing them. About 10% of patients prescribed opioids end up developing a substance abuse disorder, and about 5% end up transitioning to heroin use. These are not small statistics, and they represent thousands of Americans whose lives are ruined after being legally prescribed opioids by a physician. This public health crisis costs the United States almost $80 billion each year in lost productivity, incarcerations, and health care costs.
While this opioid crisis has gone on for decades, fortunately, it has finally come to light and is being dealt with. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is funding research to better understand alternative treatments for pain, how to better treat those suffering from opioid addiction, and how to prevent opioid abuse in the future. Chronic pain is a very real problem. While some cases can be treated by making a larger effort to understand the underlying causes of pain, this can be impossible in some cases. Patients should not have to live in pain. When physicians do prescribe opioids, it is their job to ensure they check in on their patients and keep a keen eye out for any signs of misuse or abuse.
The opioid crisis is a very real epidemic, negatively affecting people throughout the United States. While medicine can do so much good, it can also cause a lot of bad. When managed correctly, and by the right people, opioids do have the possibility of becoming an asset once again. It is important that people keep an eye out for their loved ones, and ensure those suffering from chronic pain being treated with opioids have a strong support network. Opioid abuse can too easily go unnoticed. While this has affected too many Americans, there is hope that one day, opioid abuse will not be as prevalent as it is today.