The United States is currently facing one of the worst epidemics in the past decade. The opioid crisis.
According to a study by the American Society of Addiction Medicine :
· Overdose death rate from opioids was 4x more in 2008 vs 1999
· 20,101 overdose deaths were associated with prescription pain killers in 2015
To put it into perspective: prescription drug deaths are now higher than gun homicides.
This is an epidemic that has hit people from all walks of life. There are no safe players. Many of those affected had no experience with hard drugs prior to their addiction.
How can healthcare professionals help in combating this epidemic?
Preventing the Flood
A few, select individuals are shaping the negative health care industry’s image:
· Purdue Pharma is currently facing $634.5 million in fines for purposely flooding the market
· County-to-county length of prescription has increased (up to 6x in certain markets) 
These individuals have come under crossfire from government regulations and public outcry effectively shutting down or slowing their operations.
The industry has made leaps and bounds toward value-based care which places a greater amount of control into the hands of the medical professional leading to patient satisfaction. It has removed the fragmentation found in the former healthcare process and opened new avenues of providing consistent, beneficial care for patients through remote means.
The result? Less incentive for healthcare providers to rely on prescription medications as an end-all, be-all solution to pain management.
An Indifference in Gender
Opioid abuse and addiction are almost 50/50 between men and women.
What has long since been seen through the public eyes as a “male problem,” shows an apparent indifference to gender. 50% of those seeking admission at a drug rehab for women are ages 25-49.
These facilities have seen a spike in substance abuse admittance over the past decade. Within these walls is specialized female-centric treatment often leading to a higher recovery rate versus a mixed gender setting. The addiction is often linked to intense life experiences (i.e. sexual abuse) that become the focal point of the treatment process.
Women are more likely to feel harder cravings and have a higher relapse rate than their male counterparts .
What’s Being Done
This new perspective is reshaping how society is treating addiction.
We’ve become aware that the opioid crisis has its grips across all socioeconomic and gender groups. Since these problems have revealed themselves to the mainstream – we now see a shift in public and government perception of how it’s best treated.
With it comes the appropriate change from those within the medical industry.
Positive actions from all medical professionals, government regulators, and the industry as a whole include:
· Treatment. Alternative pain management techniques are encouraged as a long-term solution to problems. Doctors are also using IV treatments of weaker forms of pain killers (like acetaminophen) which restrict access and provided similar relief as their harsher counterparts. Regulations for the duration of a script (often now 5 days) is being enforced.
· Anti-Abuse Drugs. Opioid blockers like such as Vivitrol and Naloxone have become a heavy hitter with helping past users overcome their addictions. These opioid antagonists block the opioid receptors to prevent users from feeling the euphoric effects.
· Awareness & Incentives. Awareness and the ability to spot on-coming addiction problems in the medical field have been employed through training. Incentives to reduce prescribing these drugs to patients are also presented to the medical industry.
We continue to explore every opportunity and solution to the opioid crisis. It will be a tough battle for decades to come. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope – abuse of opioids in youth is in a decline . Perhaps this mental shift and public awareness will one day stop the epidemic.
It’s in our oath to provide care to the people. We must take action to eliminate this epidemic.