America is now in the throws of an opioid crisis and the statistics are alarming. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in January that drug overdoses claimed the lives of 52,404 Americans last year, with more than 60% of those deaths related to opioid drugs. This exceeds gun deaths and car accident fatalaties in The United States.
Studies indicate that the U.S. has been led into this crisis partially due to the state of the current opioid addiction treatment system. Often times, it continues to incorpoporate stigmatizing information and beliefs around addiction and recovery. To confront the opioid epidemic, the public and policymakers need to understand that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Measures are being taken to do so and are illustrated in the below infographic:
The Opioid Crisis in America Overview - Putting a Stop to The Stigma -
"The key to recovery is support and compassion. Patients in pain and patients with a substance use disorder need comprehensive treatment, not judgment.”
Opioid use disorder is the clinical term for opioid addiction or abuse. New science reveals that many people are genetically predisposed to opioid addiction which is a chemical, DNA-driven disease of the brain.
When opioids bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, they disrupt pain signals. Simultaneously, they activate the reward areas of the brain by releasing the hormone dopamine, which creates a euphoric feeling or a "high." People who become dependent on opioids usually experience withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking them. Dependence comes with tolerance, meaning that opioid users need to take increasingly larger doses of the medication in order to attain the same effect. This scenario creates a cycle where patients become reliant on these dangerous drugs. This is the root of the issue around opioid use disorder and has led to the current dilemma in the U.S.
The Opiod Crisis in America Overview - Stopping The Crisis -
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) - includes the prescribing of medications like buprenorphine or methadone, along with behavioral therapy. MAT is considered the gold standard of treatment. Many studies back this up: one found that Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone could at least double a persons chances of remaining drug free after 18 months and another found that increased buprenorphine use was accompanied by a reduction in the number of overdose deaths. Other treatments may include detox programs such as Narcotics Anonymous.
Naxolone - A drug called naloxone, available as an injection or a nasal spray, is used as a treatment for overdoses. It blocks or reverses the effects of opioids and is often carried by first responders.
September 22, 2017 - The pharmacy chain CVS announced an implementation of new restrictions on filling prescriptions for opioids, dispensing a limited seven-day supply to patients who are new to pain therapy.
October 26, 2017 - President Trump declared a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis, telling an audience in the East Room of the White House that "we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic."
New Legislation - In an effort to reign in the problem, a handful of states -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Maine - have adopted legislation that limits opioid prescriptions to seven days. This year, New Jersey became the strictest of the states by implementing a five day limit on these prescriptions.