Published July 25, 2018
From the start of the millennium throughout the end of last year, there were well over 400,000 prescription drug overdoses in American alone. Sadly, this opioid epidemic is still on the rise and many are continuously pointing the blame on the doctors that prescribe them more so than the addictive nature of the painkillers itself. Some doctors are now questioning if they are truly contributing to the opioid crisis and are only prescribing painkillers to patients that truly need it, albeit in very small amounts.
The Beginning of the End
Back in the late 90s, major American pharmaceutical companies would sensationalize their new painkilling products to those that work in the medical field. These same companies also explained that consumers would never become addicted to their opioid infused products. So, American healthcare providers began increasingly prescribing all sorts of painkillers to their patients without batting an eye. The prescription drugs were obviously extremely addictive and became abused far more than what was recorded during that time. A recent report revealed that more than 74 percent of Americans that abused drugs such as heroin, stated that they’ve initially started by abusing various prescription painkillers. The majority of these victims of substance abuse would easily get these prescribed opioids from their family and friends for free, or next to nothing.
The Rise of the Opioids
The most predominant brands of opioids that are still circulating medical centers across the U.S. include Vicodin, OxyCotin and Percocet. Fentanyl is another strong variety of painkiller that’s quickly on the rise, it was synthetically designed to mimic the effects of heroin and morphine. All of the prescription-based painkillers are constantly rising in popularity because of its ease of access. They are FDA approved and thousands are legally being prescribed by the day. The biggest consequences that American opioid abusers will actually face are either a long-term coma or death by overdose. Roughly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in America came from opioids. The highest rates of deaths were usually from people under the age of fifty and of Caucasian or Native American descent. According to SAMHSA, nearly 12 million Americans had reportedly misused prescription painkillers in 2016. Within that same year, there were over 21 percent more opioid deaths than the previous year.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
The rise of opioid abuse is crippling the nation and many U.S. governments have enforced enrollment laws that aim to regulate the doses and duration of every opioid prescription. Healthcare providers have mandatorily enrolled in their state’s own Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, PDMP, an electronic system that contains records of every opioid-based painkiller that was prescribed. Each practice will have to check with the PDMP before administering any opioid and cannot exceed the recommended dosage and duration of the state’s controlled substance prescribing cap law. In 2016, U.S. governors from 45 states agreed on a nationwide compact to fight the opioid crisis. They strongly believe that collective action will be one of the keys towards ending the epidemic. So far, these states have effectively coordinated responses across numerous government sectors, opioid manufacturers and healthcare providers.
It is well-known that the United States is the leading prescriber of opioid-based drugs and has the highest cases of deaths from prescription drug overdoses. American surgeons must continue to educate their patients about the seriousness of controlled substance abuse and the steps it takes to fight it. There are numerous inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers located domestically that offer accommodating services to help recovering addicts. Perhaps by substantially reducing the cost of some of these facilities, many Americans could find the road to recovery.