According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioids are medications that relieve pain. These drugs reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. But, from a random prescribing of opioids the threat of gross abuse also looms large on the society.
At least 44 people die every day in the United States as a result of prescription opioid overdose, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2013. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes,” it states.
These are indeed petrifying figures. Urging doctors to curtail prescribing random opioids, the CDC says, “An increase in painkiller prescribing is a key driver of the increase in prescription overdoses.” America is in the grip of an epidemic of drug abuse, and the prescription drug abuse helpline numbers are busier than ever.
Even the governments – both federal and in states – have been worried the way drug overdoses, mostly of prescription opioids, have been claiming lives across the U.S. The Obama administration has been doing all it can to curb the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
“So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again,” said President Obama in his final State of the Union address in January 2016.
Apart from rehabs offering prescription drug addiction treatment help, everyone can contribute towards eradicating this evil plaguing our society. As per the CDC, the federal government is largely contributing towards this endeavor by lending support to the states that want to develop programs and policies to prevent prescription painkiller overdose. It is also ensuring patients’ access to safe and effective pain treatment.
“The Obama administration this year proposed $133 million in new spending to curb overprescribing, increase the amount of overdose data collected and expand access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. In August, the administration announced an initiative to pair drug enforcement officers with public health workers to trace heroin routes, and it tightened prescribing rules for a popular painkiller,” said an article in The Washington Post in October 2015.
Even health care providers can contribute towards this. As outlined by the CDC, they can:
- Use prescription drug monitoring programs to identify patients who might be misusing their prescription drugs, putting them at risk for overdose.
- Use effective treatments such as methadone or buprenorphine for patients with substance abuse problems.
- Discuss with patients the risks and benefits of pain treatment options, including ones that do not involve prescription painkillers.
- Follow best practices for responsible painkiller prescribing, including screening for substance abuse and mental health problems.
- Avoid combinations of prescription painkillers and sedatives unless there is a specific medical indication.
- Prescribe the lowest effective dose and only the quantity needed depending on the expected length of pain.
Everyone has a role to play in curbing the spread of prescription drug abuse. Creating awareness about not using opioids beyond the prescribed limit, not sharing prescriptions with others and disposing of unused medicines, etc. will help to a great extent. As parents and guardians there should be a constant tab on children about their unusual activities. Opioids prescriptions should be kept away from their reach.