The unprecedented spike in prescription opioid use in America has raised a number of questions with regard to how the country found itself in the grips of an epidemic. Certainly, most people who experience pain which requires an analgesic of some kind; the pain goes away and they stop taking the prescription. On the other hand, many people continue using prescription opioids long after the pain dissipates, resulting in dependence and/or addiction.
Many Americans understand that the country is in the midst of a prescription drug crisis, with thousands of overdoses every year and even more people in need of addiction treatment.
Some people will use prescription opioids that were prescribed for someone else, despite having the knowledge that opioids are dangerous and addictive.
A new study, which may be the first national public opinion research on opioids, has found that in the past year more than one in four Americans took a prescription opioid, ScienceDaily reports. What’s more, fifty-eight percent of those surveyed say they understand that opioid abuse is major public health problem. The study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“This study shows that many Americans have had direct experience using prescription pain relievers and a sizable share have misused or abused these medications themselves or have close friends or family members who have done so,” says study leader Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “The seriousness of the issue has become salient with the American public.”
The findings indicate that the American public may be in a unique position to pass bills that could combat the opioid epidemic, according to the article. The public could support:
- Better medical training for safely controlling pain and treating addiction.
- Curbing “doctor shopping” (seeing multiple doctors for the same drugs).
- Requiring pharmacists to check identification.
“We think this is the perfect time to work on passing policies that can truly impact the crisis of prescription pain reliever abuse,” says study co-author Emma E. “Beth” McGinty, PhD, MS, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “The issue has not yet been highly politicized like some public health issues such as the Affordable Care Act, gun violence or needle exchanges, so we may have an opportunity to stem this epidemic.”
The findings were published in the journal Addiction.
If you are or a loved one is abusing opioids, please contact Pace Recovery Center.