Media news outlets are instrumental in presenting a picture of addiction in America. The tireless work of journalists serves to educate all of us on the nature of the disease and informs us about efforts to rectify the problem. While the media doesn’t always get it right, the simple fact that discourse exists is a step in the right direction. Headlines put human faces to the numbers, which is vital to ending the stigma of alcohol and substance use disorders.
Curbing the American opioid addiction epidemic is challenging, due to a myriad of reasons—it's difficult to list them all. There is a fundamental problem in this country in how most people refer to the scourge of opioid use. It's called an "opioid epidemic;" however, the crisis we face is exponentially more massive than the 2 million plus (low estimate) individuals abusing OxyContin or injecting heroin, and the 64,000 people who perished in 2016. In reality, we are up against an addiction epidemic; something many experts and the media have lost sight of in recent years.
While we have all focused on opioids, a family of drugs devastating a large number of White Americans, the use, and abuse of other substances receives little attention. Lawmakers and health experts sincerely desire to help those in the grips of opioid addiction, yet few can agree on the means and ways of accomplishing the task. Congress pledges to help Americans overcome opioid dependence while simultaneously vowing to dismantle legislation intended to protect Americans.
Symptoms of Addiction
Ensuring that insurance companies cover mental health costs is of the utmost importance; the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act both include provisions mandating insurance to cover all health costs commensurately. A person with opioid use disorder should have the same level of coverage as someone with diabetes. Despite such legislation, providers still find a way to skirt the mandates; a person need only try to get 90-days of treatment covered to determine the depth of their policy regarding parity.
Overprescribing opioid painkillers had a hand in creating the problem we face today, but we must be careful when playing the blame game. Addiction takes root in a person when the conditions are just right, i.e., family history, quality of life, and co-occurring mental illnesses. Doctors were prescribing opioids willy-nilly in the mid to late 2000's, a time when economic hardship was people's reality. Simply put, people were unhappy, opiates made them feel better, and people had access to a bottomless reservoir of painkillers. A large percentage of those same people are still in an unfortunate way.
Doctors could stop prescribing opioids altogether, and the use of drugs like heroin or fentanyl would continue. Unless help is accessible, the suffering and premature deaths will continue. Not just from opioids, any mind-altering substance that results in physical dependence is likely to play a detrimental role in a person's health and their prospect of living a long life. It's vital for us to remember that more Americans die from alcohol each year than from overdoses. Only by looking at the big picture, can we make headway in addressing the scourge of opioid abuse.
How to Solve an Epidemic?
The New York Times is asking its readers to help the publication shape their coverage of opioid use in America. As a society, all of us have been affected by addiction both personally and in our families; with that in mind, everyone’s opinion is valuable to the goal of reducing addiction rates. A NYT survey opens with:
The devastating effects of opioid abuse are rippling through families and neighborhoods across the United States. To improve our coverage we are seeking to learn more about what our readers are looking for. Tell us what kinds of stories you’d like to see us cover. Your answers will be confidential and only shared internally. We won’t use your name or attribute any of your responses to you.”
One of the more critical questions the newspaper asks is: “In general, are you hopeful that the opioid epidemic in America will eventually be solved? Why or why not?”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Addiction is a treatable mental illness provided however you have the right help. At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you get out from under this insidious disease and begin a journey of lasting recovery. Please contact us today if you are in the grips of this progressive mental illness.