If you’re concerned about someone you know who is taking opioids right now, then you are not alone.
In every community across the nation, more and more people are becoming addicted to prescription drugs meant to relieve discomfort. Ironically, these drugs often lead to the pain and anguish of opioid addiction – which all too often ends in overdose and death.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have released chilling statistics that show the scope of the problem. From 2015 to 2016, opioid overdoses have risen an astounding 100 percent, and the deaths associated with them have reached an all-tie high.
In many communities, local morgues can’t take the bodies in fast enough. Hospitals and substance abuse treatment centers are stocking up on Naloxone and Narcan, drugs that have proven effective in treating overdoses. But many addicts who end up overdosing do not seek medical help because they fear being arrested and charged with illegal drug use.
To make matters worse, the cost of anti-overdose meds is also rising, and drug makers can’t keep up with the demand. This puts cities and towns in a tough position as they try to stem the tide of lethal overdoses.
UNDERSTANDING A NATIONAL CRISIS IN OPIOID USE
At SunCloud Health, we are just as concerned as you are about the misuse of opioid medications. Dr. Kim has written about the classification of pain, noting that many doctors have unwittingly fueled opioid overdose statistics by prescribing these medications when other pain management solutions might work equally well.
In recent months, we’ve learned even more about the factors contributing to the epidemic and we are convinced that serious action is needed to turn this trend around.
Every day, opioid overdose statistics show up in the news reports we hear and see. Our families, friends and neighbors are affected. CDC figures show that more than 1,000 Americans end up in emergency rooms every single day with symptoms of an opioid overdose. There is no question that the problem has reached epidemic proportions.
The issue has grown worse in the last 10 years as physicians and clinics have overprescribed opioids for pain of all kinds. It is generally known that some patients are more vulnerable to opioid addiction, yet there is no simple test that will help doctors predict who will get hooked and who won’t. As a result, scripts often end up in the hands of those who are most likely to become dependent.
The website Drugabuse.org reports that:
- Nearly 30% of patients who are taking prescription pain medications will become addicted to them.
- About 4% to 6% of those on prescription painkillers will eventually move to using illegal heroin
- Around 80% of current heroin users originally started with prescription meds.
BIG PHARMA’S ROLE IN THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
In the 1990s, a surge of new prescriptions for opioids laid the groundwork for the current crisis. Doctors adopted new diagnostic scales to evaluate the level of discomfort their patients were feeling. Many believe that the makers of prescription pain medications pushed for these changes, directly contributing to the epidemic of opioid overdoses and deaths we are seeing now.
The CDC says the opioid crisis came in 3 overwhelming waves:
- The first wave hit when a record number of Americans became addicted to the prescription pain medications their doctors gave them.
- The second wave came when prescription opioid addicts switched to heroin in record numbers, causing a new surge of addiction and deaths.
- The third wave came when fentanyl, a synthetic and often deadly form of heroin, hit the streets, feeding the larger crisis.
OPIOIDS ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY KILLER
Substance abuse experts are studying national patters to understand where resources and attention are needed most. Opioid overdose statistics show the greatest number of deaths in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, all areas that suffer from high rates of unemployment, poverty and occupational disability. College attendance and graduation rates are low in these areas too, reflecting a picture of economic hardship and underachievement.
Clearly, communities that struggle to provide a good quality of life are seeing higher levels of opioid addiction. But that doesn’t mean that people in more affluent areas are immune to the problem. At SunCloud Health, we treat patients from all over the Chicago area. We know that wealth, power and education are no protection from the addictive power of these dangerous drugs.
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE YOU LOVE
If you or someone you care about is taking prescription opioids right now, there are several things you can do to ensure they do not suffer alone.
First, look for signs that your loved one is in trouble. This helpful guide from the Mayo Clinic is a good place to start.
Next, find a loving and non-confrontational way to discuss what you see. Here are some very thoughtful tips from Sharon Osbourne, a wife, mother and performing artist who’s definitely been there. Sharon’s wisdom will give you many practical ways to open a conversation with your loved one.
Even if you don’t succeed in getting through to your loved one, you may need to take action. If you suspect that a friend or family member can’t stop using prescription meds or has moved on to illegal drug use, call the experts at SunCloud Health right now. Your call is 100% confidential – and we will help you find the support your friend or family member needs to start down the road to recovery.