Tag Archives: opioid addiction epidemic

Opioid Addiction Epidemic in America

opioid addiction

The American opioid addiction epidemic has been relegated to the back burner of late because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not to say opioid addiction and overdose are no longer on the radar; it’s that we’ve been caught up in COVID-19 statistics and our government’s plan to address the situation.

As far as public health crises are concerned, it makes sense that our focus has shifted to the coronavirus—it has stolen more than 220,000 lives in 2020 thus far. Still, the opioid use disorder epidemic should not be forgotten about, even if it’s challenging to focus on more than one public health crisis at a time.

For years, it seemed like opioid addiction and overdoses dominated the headlines; that nearly 100,000 Americans die of an overdose each year seemed like a primary topic of discussion. With each passing week, a new headline involving opioids would be seen having to do with misuse or a new lawsuit against those who profited from overprescribing. However, public attention has pivoted to COVID-19, which has led to more than one million deaths worldwide.

With the nation’s attention on coronavirus, many important stories are being overlooked. You may have missed specific headlines, like the one involving Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.

The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, has been in the limelight in recent years. The primary shareholders of the makers of OxyContin are infamous in America. You may be aware that Purdue touted OxyContin as not carrying a significant risk for addiction. The drug was promoted to prescribers as being safe, despite the steady rise in overdoses since the release of the drug in the mid-’90s.

Purdue’s Role in the Nation’s Opioid Crisis

Last week, Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges related to its marketing practices, The New York Times reports. The company is looking at $8.3 billion in penalties, and the Sacklers have agreed to pay $225 million in civil penalties.

In recent years, thousands of thousands of lawsuits have been brought against Purdue Pharma. States, cities, counties, and tribes are all trying to hold the company and the Sackler family responsible for their role in the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic. The vast majority of people using heroin today used prescription opioids like OxyContin first.

Research shows that 21% of high school seniors who misused prescription opioids and later received an opioid prescription, used heroin by age 35.

While this update is promising news, it’s unlikely that Purdue will pay anything close to the $8 billion; the company has already sought bankruptcy court protection, according to the article. However, the settlement could lead to the resolution of many of the thousands of pending lawsuits. The agreement did not end all the litigation against Purdue, nor does it preclude the filing of criminal charges against Purdue Pharma executives or individual Sacklers.

In a letter to the Department of Justice, relatives of opioid use disorder victims said the agreement falls short. What’s more, Massachusetts has scheduled depositions against some Sacklers for next month.

The D.O.J. failed,” said Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Opioid Addiction During the Pandemic

Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers are the tip of the iceberg. Lawsuits have been filed against other drug companies, including prescription drug distributors that filled pharmacy orders despite evidence of impropriety. The opioid addiction epidemic is nuanced; many players were involved in the problem becoming this bad.

The pandemic has made matters worse, according to a new Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study. The research shows that misuse of fentanyl, heroin, and non-prescribed opioids are on the rise.

The findings indicate that the drug positivity rate increased 35% for non-prescribed fentanyl and 44% for heroin during the pandemic compared to the period before the pandemic (January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for a rise in substance use disorders and other forms of prescription and illicit drug misuse. Stress, job losses and depression compounded with isolation and a lack of access to health services can trigger prescription medication overuse, illicit drug use, or relapses,” said co-author Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Head of Health Trends Research Program, Quest Diagnostics.

It was concerning to learn that the positivity for a combination of drugs was especially pronounced. Positivity for non-prescribed fentanyl and amphetamines increased by 89%, benzodiazepines (48%), cocaine (34%), and opiates (39%). The researchers point out that most overdoses involve concurrent use of benzodiazepines, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

Our Health Trends data demonstrate the consequences of the pandemic, with dramatic increases of misuse of non-prescribed drugs at a time when fentanyl is also on the rise. Our nation is grappling with a drug epidemic inside a pandemic. Patients and providers need increased access to support services, clinical care and drug testing to stop drug misuse from claiming more lives,” Dr. Kaufman said.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Men

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder. Our team utilizes evidence-based therapies to help our clients break the cycle of addiction and learn how to lead a positive life in recovery. We are standing by at 800-526-1851 to answer any questions you have about our gender-specific treatment for men.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic Solutions

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More than 72,000 people in the United States died from accidental drug overdoses last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While it is difficult to quickly pinpoint the exact cause of a fatal drug overdose – prescription drugs, heroin, or synthetic opioids – opioid painkillers are one of the leading reasons. Drugs like oxycodone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone are responsible for many deaths each year, despite efforts to rein in overprescribing and doctor shopping.

Even if a prescription opioid isn’t linked to an overdose death, there is a good chance that a victim was introduced to opiates by a physician. Deadly introductions to opioids are extremely common, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 80 percent of heroin users first misused prescription painkillers. The reasons for changing from FDA-approved drugs to street-grade heroin vary; but, it often stems from a patient no longer being able to acquire their prescriptions easily.

Anyone living with opioid use disorder – whether they’re still active or in the first 5-years of recovery – knows that in most states it’s more difficult than before to meet the demands of their disease. Why is more challenging? Because practically every state in the country has some form of prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP); many doctors have a better understanding of the disease; and, most physicians are unable to write refill after refill for opioid narcotics. Patients are now receiving smaller, less potent drugs than before and more doctors are determined to taper patients off in a timely manner.

In many cases, not all, patients will turn to the black market to acquire the drugs they desire—narcotics that will prevent painful withdrawal symptoms. However, many Americans still find ways to obtain their prescription meds and use them in dangerous ways.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Mandate

PDMPs exist, but few doctors rely on the life-saving tools! Each doctor gives their reasons for resistance, and such reasons vary from state-to-state. Here in California, and despite being the first state to implement a PDMP, the track record of use is nothing short of dismal.

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, debuted in 1997; but, by 2012 less than 10 percent of providers and pharmacists had signed up for access to the database, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. In 2012, the opioid addiction epidemic was well underway, and Californians were succumbing to overdoses at a staggering rate. Moreover, few doctors were turning to CURES to learn about their patient’s prescriptions, who prescribed the drugs, and which pharmacies filled them.

Given that doctors are in a wholly unique position to identify patients at risk of abuse, or those already showing signs of addiction, utilizing CURES is no longer up for debate. Whether a physician likes the database or not (some have complained that it is hard to use), starting next month use is mandatory, The Los Angeles Times reports. State Sen. Ricardo Lara’s SB 482 goes into effect requiring, among other things, that:

A health care practitioner authorized to prescribe, order, administer, or furnish a controlled substance to consult the CURES database to review a patient’s controlled substance history no earlier than 24 hours, or the previous business day, before prescribing a Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV controlled substance to the patient for the first time and at least once every 4 months thereafter if the substance remains part of the treatment of the patient.

Stemming the Tide of Addiction With Due Diligence

Despite being around for more than 20 years, the program has had a number of problems that have been addressed over the years. Originally described as “clunky and far from user-friendly,” the system was revamped in 2009 and CURES 2.0 was released in 2016 with a better interface, according to the article. The newer database is far from perfect and can use some improvements; even still, compulsory use of CURES will undoubtedly save lives.

California joins New York, Kentucky, and Tennessee in requiring doctors to consult a prescription drug database before prescribing. According to the article, a 2017 study showed that mandatory use of New York’s I-STOP database in 2013 led to a leveling off of prescription opioid deaths in the state.

California created the first system to track prescriptions of the strongest painkillers, but our state fell behind as the opioid crisis grew,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who drafted the legislation in 2015. “I wrote SB 482 to require that doctors and others consult the CURES system before prescribing these powerful and addictive drugs. This tool will help limit doctor shopping, break the cycle of addiction and prevent prescriptions from ever again fueling an epidemic that claims thousands of lives.”

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Men

Please reach out to PACE Recovery Center if you are struggling with prescription opioids or heroin, or your loved one is about to complete inpatient treatment and can benefit from extended care. Relying on a combination of traditional and alternative therapeutic methods, we can help you or a family member enter into a life of recovery from opiate addiction.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic Observations

opioid addiction

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.

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