Understanding the Opioid Addiction and Prevention
By: Araceli Ramirez
America is in the midst of a devastating epidemic from the misuse of both prescription and illegal opioids. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains, in 2016, 63,632 drug overdose deaths occurred nationwide, 66.4 percent of which involved opioids. Addiction is still on the rise, overdoses increased by 30 percent from 2016 to 2017 in 45 states across the United States as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, in 2017 Montgomery County had 4,854 overdoses, making it the highest in the state of Ohio. It is important to acknowledge and educate the dangers of these different drugs to prevent further addictions.
“Lower back pain might not kill you, however the treatments might.” warns Dr. Christine Girtz, Vice Chancellor for Research and Health Policy from Palmer College of Chiropractic and CEO of The Spine Institute for Quality Spine IQ.
Opioids are essentially pills used to treat common issues like back pain. Once the pill is ingested, the chemicals react causing euphoric feeling for the consumer.
A patent has been announced amid lawsuits for a new drug that supposedly helps wean addicted users off of Oxycontin, one of the most addictive opioids. Children have lost parents due to oxycontin, 100,000 people have died because of it. These deaths have caused controversy in America over who is in charge of creating this new “non-addictive” opioid.
Lawsuits have been filed against Pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma stating that from the beginning they “downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioids,” “exaggerated the benefits” and “advised health care professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids.” The Washington Post specifies this information from the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
In a panel discussion from Gallup, four experts weighed in on how to combat this epidemic. The four ways are: through education, making the addiction easier to treat, addressing problems that lead to addiction, and treating pain more safely without the use of drugs.
It’s estimated by The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health that approximately 25 million people suffer from chronic pain of some sort. Dr. Girtz suggests non drug approaches like acupuncture, meditation, spinal manipulation,education, and decreasing the cost of treatment to help. It is important to note, in 2016 the American College of Physicians and the Mayo Clinic conducted a review of 105 random trials based on non-pharmaceutical approaches. The study concluded that there are still some gaps in research due to fact that one-third of victims live in rural areas so they cannot get treatment as easily as people who live in the city. Doctors are looking into telehealth to reach people electronically who live in remote areas.
In addition, treatment that works for one may not work for another, said Carolyn Clancy from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The issue reached national levels when President Donald Trump signed The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 on September 26. The bill would stop illegal trafficking of drugs by allowing the United States Postal Service to inspect foreign packages when they arrive.
It gives funding to implement addiction support centers in communities. Treatment costs can be be expensive, so people will now be able to receive grants to help them through treatment.
One downfall of this bill is that the guidelines for medicated treatment are loosened which makes it easier for doctors to prescribe drugs to help treat the drug problem.
With the new bill, doctors will be able to legally share patient's medical information, which raises a privacy issue. According to the CDC, overdose rates in Ohio are statistically higher than the average nationwide.
“We want to get our message to them before they come into contact with it.” Andy Sedlak weighed in. Sedlak is the campaign manager for Doug Barry, the county commissioner candidate and communication director for Barry Staff Inc.
He suggests a three prong approach starting with education.
“By the time they get to middle school it’s probably too late. Kids have older siblings or parents that may have come into contact with this. So if we can get them at the root that’s where you want to plant that seed so they’re not trying to adapt later.” Sedlak said providing treatment to victims is essential.
“You can’t just ignore the crime obviously, but whatever form of jail time or wherever they are, they need to be receiving treatment,” he explained.
A third approach is by working with the addicts and their families. According to a Gallup poll based on the effects of drugs on families in July of 2018, 30 percent of Americans say that drugs have had an affected their families, compared to 1995 when only 19 percent of families were affected.
“Families can be good influencers on people in general. There’s a non profit that we work with called Families of Addicts (FOA). Their whole mission is to get families and addicts together in the same room to talk, share stories and say hey this worked for me, why don’t you give it a shot type of thing,” says Sedlak.
Organizations like the FOA play a role in this as well. “Whether you start a county agency to do what they’re doing or you give them funding to expand their operations, that type of thing needs to continue” said Sedlak.