What Has Been Done to Fix the Opioid Addiction Problem?

As more and more Americans became addicted to prescription pain-killers, regulatory agencies started going after doctors who over-prescribed these pharmaceutical drugs causing many doctors to cut back or cut off their patients’ prescriptions altogether. Of course, those addicted took to the streets to find alternatives, and that meant illegal drugs such as heroin. Heroin on the street is much cheaper, adding to the usage and addiction problem.

While the number of overdose deaths from heroin has sky-rocketed, the number of overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like Fentanyl has hit an all-time high, 30,000 in 2018 alone according to research from the RAND Corp (cite: 1). Combined deaths of both legal and illegal opioids are estimated near 50,000 according to the US Drug Database form the National Institute of Drug Abuse (cite: 2).

The Federal Government spent $11 billion in FY 2017 – FY 2018, putting forth funds to 57 programs to help curb the opioid crisis. The money has been spent on prevention, recovery, and treatment, as well as enforcement, criminal justice, supply reduction, and public health surveillance according to the Bipartisan Policy Center (Cite: 3).

Is this money working? Yes, but slowly. Only recently has the data shown we’ve almost peaked in the opioid crisis and the numbers in the future might decline. Still, opioid addiction is not only a national crisis. It’s a local community problem, affecting real lives, and real people, human beings – our family members, friends, and loved ones. So, it’s more than just numbers.

As you can see, our Nation’s opioid epidemic didn’t happen overnight, nor will it merely vanish by way of wishful thinking. The history of opioids, whether synthetic or otherwise, shows these substances to be highly addictive. This is why they work so well fighting pain, as they trigger the pleasure sensors in the human brain.

No one should be too surprised as to how we got to this crisis, what matters now is that we treat these addictions with compassion and create a solid road to recovery.

Is It Possible to Recover from an Opioid Addiction?

Thankfully, the answer is; YES. However, it’s never a one size fits all. The best chance for a full recovery is a personalized rehab program that takes into consideration the individual’s real needs. The chances of a relapse are just too great to risk anything else, thus the program must be custom tailored.

Often there are co-occurring disorders, which must be dealt with on a personal level. It’s the only safe way forward. Some opioid addictions are from strictly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, others from illicit drugs, many are a combination of both, as the addiction progresses. Often patients still have pain, perhaps the same pain for which the painkillers were originally prescribed. Since every patient is different and since every addiction has formed along a different path, every recovery program needs to be unique as well – and, that’s what treatment centers are there for – to give people their lives back.

References:

1.) RAND Corp Think Tank – The Future of Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids, 2019

2.) NIH – National Institute of Drug Abuse data base – January 2019

3.) Bipartisan Policy Center – March 2019