The Opioid Epidemic In Our Nation
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse more than 90 people per day are overdosing and dying from an opioid based drug. This opioid epidemic we are currently experiencing in our nation is a direct result of prescription opiate abuse that overtime develops into a full blown heroin addiction problem. Prescription opiates and heroin have the same effect on the brain which include feelings of euphoria. With recent crackdowns on pain clinics and “pill mills”, from the DEA, heroin on the street becomes an attractive alternative. Heroin lures users by offering easier availability and cheaper prices. Heroin is now a common replacement for any opioid-based drug.
When Heroin Becomes Deadly
When a user turns to “heroin,” they may actually be getting a substance that includes mixes such as Fentanyl or Carfentanil which are known as even more deadly drugs. These two dangerous substances are being sold as heroin, but no one really knows the exact ingredients in a heroin baggy, which is why it is often lethal. Prescription Painkillers Are One Reason Heroin is the crisis it is today.
Prescription painkillers are dangerous but they don’t have the same uncertainty as heroin when it comes to their ingredients. The FDA must approve prescription pills, so that means that each medication contains specific measurements of exact ingredients which are then labeled. The overdose death tolls that are rising are from heroin batches that are mixes. Some of these deadly batches are mixed with substances like fentanyl. These are the overdose deaths that we are seeing as headline news. These cases also make clear that the chronic disease of addiction can affect any person in any walk of life.
The heroin problem has grown recently because during the 90’s-00’s prescription medication prescribing had little oversight and distribution was not well-regulated. Doctors were prescribing such large amounts of prescription opiates without having the knowledge of how addicting they can be, and also without knowing how great the risk for abuse was.
Why A National Crisis/Epidemic?
The opioid crisis in the US reached new heights in 2017. The preliminary data from last year shows there there were 17% more deaths from drug overdoses between May 2016 and May 2017 compared with the previous year. The statistics are literally off the charts in the past five years concerning opioid and heroin abuse statistics. Drug addiction is the leading cause of death among Americans younger than 50 – surpassing car accidents and gunshot wounds.
The age of users is getting younger and younger, and the heroin problem has spread from inner cities to rural communities at alarming rates. According to Samhsa.gov, 41% of people who are misusing opioids are obtaining pills from a friend or family member who has a prescription. Inner cities have long been plagued by institutional violence and crime, and also drug problems. Now, levels of drug use are rising in smaller communities that do not typically have problems with crime.
Opioid addiction, heroin addiction and other types drug addiction are diseases, not just bad health choices that can be reversed on a whim or dropped. With this in mind, society needs to continue to work on developing solutions to the opioid epidemic that don’t rely on prison and forced detox as the leading methodologies. Sustainable solutions to the opioid epidemic will require policymakers to view the issue through a public health lens. A heroin addiction affects everyone – not just the addict.
How To Help Individuals Addicted to Opioid Based Drugs
Addiction can be a scary thing to deal with first hand. The individual turns from a person into a creature who is only concerned with feeding their addiction the drug of choice and nothing else. It can be a difficult trial period to go through if dealing with an addicted individual on a first hand basis.
Addiction is a chronic disease that there is no set cure for. Relapse rates for heroin and prescription painkillers are over 80%. These are scary numbers when the outcome of addiction without recovery is often jail or death. There are new medication based treatment programs that go along with therapy to ensure healing of the entire individual. Mind, body, and spirit, this holistic approach combined with medication has been seen 50% more successful than traditional drug treatment methods for those who are suffering from a heroin addiction.
New Medication Assisted Treatment Programs More Successful for Opiate Addiction
For those suffering from a heroin or opioid based drug addiction, the relapse rates are scary. Traditional treatment methodology has been proven time and time again to be unsuccessful. The only treatment method that has seen success with opioid drugs is medication assisted treatment programs (MAT). MAT combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. There are a few main prescribed medication used in MAT therapy, but their goals are all the same: help the individual not experience the cravings associated with heroin, opioids and opiate drug abuse. MAT Treatment is the most successful intervention for opioid use disorder. If those using drugs do not have options for treatment, the outcome is typically death by overdose or prison. Treatment is the answer to this opioid epidemic.