The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that the impact of the opioid crisis cuts across barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, geography and socioeconomic status, claiming 78 victims every day due to an overdose. Today, fatal overdoses exceed deaths by shooting rampages and incidents of road rage across the country.
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), millions suffer from chronic pain each year leading to a sharp spike in health care and rehabilitation costs and a steep decline in productivity. The need of the hour is to accept the fact that there is a nationwide chronic pain problem, and the medications once considered to be beneficial, are actually proving to be detrimental.
While the U.S. continues to reel under the epidemic involving addiction to prescription opioids, many fingers seem to point toward physicians and medical practitioners turning a blind eye. But, the question is: Are they really ignorant or is it time for them to change their age-old prescribing strategies? Highlighting the issue, a new study involving insurance claims data for 53,000 people in 2011/2012, who visited the emergency room for an ankle sprain, shows that those who were prescribed 30 or more pills exhibited a two-fold vulnerability to seek an additional prescription within the next six months when compared to those who were prescribed only 15 pills or fewer.
Even though an ankle sprain is not a chronic painful condition that would require a strong painkiller to manage the condition, astonishingly, 7 percent of the patients received such a prescription. According to the study conducted by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, larger the number of pills, higher the odds of users getting hooked on to the pills. Moreover, the researchers also observed certain variations among the states. People in Mississippi were 10 times more likely to be prescribed opioids for even minor conditions than people in Delaware.
More and more young Americans are finding themselves addicted to opioids, particularly, those in the teens and early to mid-twenties aren’t aware of the larger risks. They are generally ill-informed about the side effects of the medications and dangers of exceeding the prescribed doses. Besides, doctors also don’t bother to educate patients about proper disposal methods and possibilities of slipping into prolonged use. Studies reveal about 60 percent of the people addicted to opioids admitted that they were given their first opioid pain reliever either by a dentist, general physician, or managed to get it from a family member’s medicine cabinet.
Opioids are widely used to alleviate pain. Prescription drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin work wonders in numbing the intense pain signals targeting the brain by inhibiting the neuron cell receptors, temporarily hindering the brain’s response to painful stimuli. In reality, what actually happens is that the pain doesn’t go away forever. It simply doesn’t bother the patient for a while. But, the very neuron cell or opioid receptors that respond to pain signals also regulate emotional impulses such as feelings of euphoria, urges to get high and the desire for reward. Such a correlation increases the risk of addiction.
Ways to minimize addiction to opioid painkillers
One of the reasons why most Americans are unaware about the dangers of prescription drugs is an inherent misapprehension about the drug testing and approval procedures. Many are led into a false sense of belief that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a rigorous testing and evaluation mechanism in place. This is actually far from the truth as the current system shrugs the entire onus of clinical trials and safety testing of a new drug on the pharmaceutical company, which develops the drug. Besides, painkillers are definitely an economically viable option to manage pain.
For effective long-term care, experts in the medical community believe that a customized and multidisciplinary approach comprising alternative treatment options such as physical therapy and complementary medicines, including non-opioids and non-pharmacologic treatments for pain, should be the way ahead. Here are some tips to avoid opioid misuse:
- Identifying vulnerability levels: Before prescribing any medications to manage pain, a doctor must weigh the factors that could lead to addiction, such as, personal and family history of addiction to medicines, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, history of mood and personality disorders.
- Considering alternative options: If feasible, those susceptible to addiction should be recommended other alternative to manage pain, such as physical therapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, tai chi and other non-opioid medications.
- Using medications as directed: Care should be taken not to misuse medications as a coping tool for unrelated problems. For examples, a painkiller is not the solution to relieve work-related stress.
- Seeking help if required: Addiction to medications is highly unpredictable and very much a possibility. Advice from a specialized doctor or a non-judging psychologist can help eliminate any addiction.
- Storing medications safely: Pain-relieving medications pose a risk of abuse leading to addiction. It is advisable to keep opioids away from the reach of others, especially children and teenagers, to avoid misuse.
Sovereign Health can help
Doctors, health care professionals, patients and pharmacists can play a significant role in recognizing and thwarting any unapproved use of prescription medications. Efforts must be made to incorporate more evidence-based screening tools as a part of any consultation process, besides highlighting other alternative forms of treatment if required. The need of the hour is to provide citizens with access to addiction help, which includes useful information on treatment for addiction and non-narcotic methods to manage pain.
Sovereign Health is a leading provider of mental and behavioral health care in the U.S. Our customized drug addiction treatment programs are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically. Sovereign Health of San Clemente’s pain programs are designed to assist those individuals whose pain has led to an addiction of either prescription and/or illegal drugs.
If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, get in touch with Sovereign Health to gain access to the latest and innovative treatment methods at our state-of-the-art drug rehabilitation centers spread across the U.S. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most prominent addiction treatment centers in California or at a place closer home.