The irresponsible use of prescription drugs to satisfy addiction cravings has created an epidemic, resulting in catastrophic damage to the social and emotional welfare of addicts. With more than 115 people dying every day in the United States, the opioid epidemic is a serious crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately.
Opioids include legal prescription drugs such as codeine, morphine, OxyContin—drugs that are illegal under all circumstances—heroin, and prescription drugs that are legal in some circumstances but have been illegally produced and/or distributed, in the mould of fentanyl and carfentanil.
The widespread abuse of these drugs, including the legal ones that were made available to the public in too-large quantities, has resulted in the opioid epidemic.
According to a 2015 review in the journal Pain, about 21 to 29 percent of patients in the United States, are in the habit of misusing prescription opioids. In 2016 alone, the National Center for Health Statistics found that more than 42,000 deaths were reported as a result of opioid abuse.
For many years, chronic pain patients complained that doctors were too miserly in prescribing medications. Then, in 1990, pharmaceutical companies introduced new opioids that they claimed would be safer and not result in addiction. They also reassured the medical community that if these drugs were dissolved for injection, they would no longer cause intoxication.
So, under pressure from patients and pharmaceutical companies, doctors began prescribing opioids in large quantities. When people began misusing them at an amazing rate, the pharmaceutical companies’ claims proved to be overstated.
Drug pushers began to sell these prescription drugs in the black market. More people turned to opioids because of its ease of availability and quick effect post-consumption. Attempts to rein in these prescriptions resulted in a rise in heroin use and abuse of the super-opioid fentanyl.
In 2015, opioid addiction spiked. 33,000 people died due to overdose in the US alone, and millions were left with substance use disorder.
How Do We Win The War?
Solving this problem—ending the opioid epidemic—requires a multifaceted approach:
Inform people about opioid overdose
People need to be informed about how easily and quickly they can become addicted to opioids, about their awful side-effects, how difficult it is to quit, and how easily one can die from an overdose. One way to do this is by reminding people of the scary deaths of famous, successful actors and musicians such as Jay Bennet and Heath Ledger who died due to consumption of these potent drugs. This can be done with billboards or through video messages circulated over social media sites.
Convince people regular consumption of drugs lead to full-blown addiction
Most addicts don’t start out taking drugs with the intention of becoming regular users, let alone morphing into addicts. Oftentimes, they just want to experiment or take it to suppress some pain. The heady feeling it creates leads to a craving to keep abusing these drugs. If they keep abusing the drugs, it’s only a matter of time before they become hooked. There is an urgent need to convince individuals about the dynamics of addiction and its harmful side-effects to forestall growing addiction among the populace.
Emphasize the idea that prevention is better than cure
Once an individual becomes addicted, they may never be entirely cured. People have relapsed after 20 years of sobriety. Even the process of quitting or withdrawal can be excruciating—in some cases life-threatening, especially severe alcoholism and benzodiazepine addiction—that an addict who wants to get clean will instead choose to remain an addict. Prevention is always better than cure. If you never become an addict, you never have to go through the painful recovery process.
Hold facilitators in charge accountable
The searchlight must be beamed on the ultimate culprits behind this issue: the drug supplier through whom the drugs gain unhindered access into the market, be it a pusher or Big Pharma. One of the primary issues is the fact that the large pharmaceutical companies are allowed to flood the market with these products in the first place. Why aren’t they more closely regulated? The CEOs in charge of the companies making huge profits from this epidemic cannot be trusted, so why hasn’t the government passed legislation to put a stop to it?
While there are steps consumers and communities can take to arrest the opioid epidemic, there must be accountability from the bodies and government who have a bigger responsibility to safeguard the lives of the citizenry. Stricter restrictions and protection should be put in place.
Opioids and other addictive drugs can result in serious health risks, and ultimately death. In some ways, living with an addiction to opioids can be worse than death for addicts and their friends and family.
If you want to overcome an addiction, you don’t need to do it alone. Contact a recovery center to find immediate help.
Guest Blogger,Adam Durnham is a freelance blogger who specializes in mental health and awareness, addiction, and recovery. He has a background in Journalism and holds an English degree from Central Michigan University. Adam lives in Detroit with his dog, Beignet.