THE DEADLY RESULTS
As opioid painkiller addiction is increasingly recognized as an epidemic by agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and political personalities no less influential than the President of the United States, the addiction and consequential death rate that comes with opioid use has also been noted for surpassing gun and vehicle deaths in 2015.
This comes from a recent report released by the DEA that mentions the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), which found drug overdose deaths outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents and firearms. The report goes on to mention that in 2013, more than 46,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose; more than half of which were caused by prescription painkillers and heroin.
“Sadly this report confirms what we’ve known for some time: drug abuse is ending too many lives too soon and destroying families and communities,” DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said. “We must reach young people at an even earlier age and teach them about its many dangers and horrors.”
Statistics have amplified the need for regulation of the medical community and their propensity to distribute opioid-based painkillers, a mission which local, federal, and international authorities have been trying to get a handle on in order to stem increasing opioid death rates.
And while some may feel little to nothing is being done to reign in opioid substance abuse, the government has recently taken a two-prong attack, with President Obama earmarking $1.1 billion for opioid abuse recovery efforts while the DEA spearheads a nationwide crackdown on doctors who overprescribe painkillers.
SOLUTIONS TO A SERIOUS NATIONAL AILMENT
Efforts are currently in play to level off the prodigious rate at which opioid abuse is rising. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora D. Volkow stated in a May 2015 presentation that significant efforts have been taken within the country to reduce misuse of prescription opioids, as well as reduce opioid overdoses and related deaths.
Ms. Volkow went on to say that NIDA supports research to understand the impact of these policy changes on opioid misuse, use disorders, and related public health outcomes. This research has demonstrated the efficacy of multiple types of interventions including:
-Educational initiatives delivered in school and community settings.
-Supporting consistent use of prescription drug monitoring programs.
-Implementation of overdose education and naloxone distribution programs to issue naloxone directly to opioid users and potential bystanders.
-Aggressive law enforcement efforts to address doctor shopping and pill mills.
-Diverting individuals with substance use disorders to Drug Courts.
-Expansion of access to Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT).
-Abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid analgesics.
OTHER AREAS OF CONCERN
In its study the 2015 NDTA also noted Mexico as being a source from which opioids as well as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana can arrive within the U.S.
Most of this is due to Mexican transnational criminal organizations, many of whom are responsible for much of the extreme violence seen in Mexico. The study also found that here in the U.S., affiliated gangs are a significant threat to the safety and security of local communities as they supply Americans with these dangerous drugs.
With the increased availability of heroin within the U.S., there has also been an increase in abusers, overdoses, and deaths.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed a 51% increase between 2013 and 2014 in the number of current heroin users, while heroin seizure amounts in the U.S. have nearly doubled since 2010, from 2,763 kilograms to 5,013 kilograms in 2014.
Since 2002, Americans have borne witness to prescription drug deaths outpacing those of cocaine and heroin combined. Abuse of controlled prescription drugs is higher than that of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and PCP combined.
INSURANCE COMPANIES TO GET INTO THE ACT
CNN reports insurance companies lose on average $72 billion annually because of opioid addiction and death. With this stark reality in place, major life insurance companies such as Cigna, Aetna, and Blue Shield-Blue Cross, are currently taking measures to ensure the current opioid epidemic does not worsen.
Cigna, for example, red flags its high-risk clients who try to get large amounts of opioids, have been prescribed opioid medication for a long period of time, or attempt to get their medication from different doctors.
From that point, Cigna will then get in touch with the prescribing doctor to discuss the patient/client, and methods that can be taken to prescribe something other than opioid-based medication.
“We reach out to the doctors who are prescribing and let them know that this history exists,” said Dr. Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer for Cigna’s behavioral health business. “We ask (the doctors) to look at the history themselves and make a decision: Is it appropriate, or is it not appropriate?”
Opioid use and addiction may be as some have deemed it, the modern-day plague pushed down upon Americans by big pharmaceutical, greedy doctors, and government regulation that is two-or-more steps behind the issue.
But the authorities are catching up, and now it appears the life insurance companies are becoming involved. Most importantly, though, is as citizens we are becoming more aware of the epidemic of opioid use. Yes, it is dangerous. It eclipses gun violence as well as automobile accidents. Now it is up to us to remedy that danger with education and restraint. We can beat the odds of this affliction if we work together on it!
Some addictions are too strong to resolve single-handedly. If you believe you are in the advanced stages of an addiction that needs serious, professional and caring attention, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs to fit the substance to which your child is addicted. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.
Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA Releases 2015 Drug Threat Assessment: Heroin and Painkiller Abuse Continue to Concern. Retrieved May 24, 2016
What is the Federal Government Doing to Combat the Opioid Abuse Epidemic?, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved May 24, 2016
Health insurance companies step up to fight the opioid epidemic, CNN.com. Retrieved May 24, 2016