Most people might not be aware but the seeds for the persistent opioid crisis were sown back in the 1990s, when the pharmaceutical companies successfully convinced healthcare providers that it was safe to prescribe opioid drugs for relieving pain. Quite predictably, the use of opioid drugs, especially fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) surged to a massive degree because of their addictive properties. The opioid crisis has seen then gone berserk – with people abusing prescription, opioids as well as illegally manufactured fentanyl, painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. It is about time that the opioid crisis must be addressed seriously; especially since it is starting to become a universal epidemic and has been going on for decades now.
The healthcare providers are accountable for the widespread use of opioids within clinical practice. What started off as a quick remedy to relieve pain, ended up becoming tragic for most people – with most people dying of drug overdose. The death rates were so high that the overall life expectancy has decreased. On part this epidemic can be accounted to the nonchalance and plain convenience of healthcare providers for ensuing such highly addictive drugs to relieve chronic pain instead of conducting expensive therapies.
Since the opioid crisis essentially began from a group that took a series of logical decisions before prescribing it, and that too in a controlled environment, there is still a chance that the rates can substantially be reduced – that is, if the problem is tackled more seriously. 2019 should be the year where the opioid epidemic should be controlled, especially since it adversely affects so many individuals. Thus, it has serious repercussions on the following parameters.
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome; seen in children born to women who abused the drug during pregnancy.
- Low life expectancy; the average life expectancy has fallen down to 78 years for a US male.
- Economic burden; quite evidently when a handful of individuals will be abusing drugs, the manpower of a country shall be reduced and wasted. Moreover, social services are also additionally being provided to individuals who have been affected. These include food supplies as well as stable income.
- Lack of productivity, this persists on both ends. The patients and healthcare providers become involved in handling yet another problem post-operation. Especially in patients who abuse opioids after surgeries to relieve chronic pain.
- Healthcare costs have been doubled to facilitate babies with NAS as well as patients who have abused the drug.
- Drug Dependence and treatment is yet another cumbersome process that could have been avoided by using other therapeutic measures.
- Disrupted family life; just like any drug addiction, families and especially children can severely be affected, especially those with addiction since or birth or the ones whose parents have died of overdose.
What Measures Are Currently Being Taken?
At present in the US, where the epidemic is widespread, the HHS and NIH have been taking active measures to tackle the problem and the rates are fairly decreasing:
- Equipping the personnel to provide better access to treatment and remedies for fast recovery.
- Implementing the use of drugs that reverse addiction.
- More effective awareness campaigns and surveillance.
- Allotting more budgets for research in pain management as well as integrating better, alternative therapies.
The results of these measures are yet to come. Although in places like Germany, the problem shall persist for the drug, Fentanyl is cheaply available; hence it is regarded as a better option for pain relief – especially for the poor.
How Paying More Attention to Behavioral Psychology of Patients Could Also Help Overcome the Crisis
The healthcare providers cannot be solely blames for triggering the epidemic. The patients, although unbeknownst of the addictive nature of the drug, started abusing them, especially to relieve chronic pain due to post-operative surgery, trauma or cancer. The risk of opioid addiction increases once the abuser develops dependence and subsequently tolerance for the drug. Then one resorts to taking higher doses of the drug than what has been prescribed.
Collecting data of the abusers and the non-abusers on the opioid drugs for pain relief may help tackle the problem in an easier manner. Variables can be explored and discussed to understand whether lower pain thresholds, mental agility or environment circumstances may contribute to the abuse. You may not be aware when the best assignment writer in class starts abusing on opioid out of academic stress. An in-depth behavior psychology can be helpful since studies already suggest that not everyone is susceptible to addiction. Hence, psychoanalysis of patients can help with further screening of whether or not opioid drugs can be suitable for an individual. If not, then other remedies may be employed to relieve pain.
Undoubtedly, the work involved is extensive but so are the people who are being affected by it. It is the joint responsibility of healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies as well as patients and researchers to come up with measures to tackle a problem that can be sagaciously controlled.