Queensborough Community College
January 17, 2018
One of the most significant public health problems facing the United States of America today is the opioid epidemic. Many people have lost their lives due to addiction to opioids, with some of the remaining population of addicts losing the ability to live normal lives. The problem is that most Americans remain under informed of the impact of this addiction, and they end up blaming pharmaceutical companies as well as doctors. Politicians have tried solving the problem but even the offer of providing drugs such as Suboxone to eliminate withdrawal symptoms has not worked. The opioid epidemic may be blamed on the failure of the government to educate people on the dangers of this addiction and following up with the addicts so as to rehabilitate them completely.
The opioid epidemic is a major issue in public health today as it is among the leading causes of death for young productive Americans under the age of 50. So far, over 64,000 in the last year alone have fallen under the use of opioids – a rate that is higher than that of guns, addiction to cocaine and heroin, and the H. I. V. epidemic (Salam, 2017). The problem has been growing over the years that now more and more people are addicted to opioids. Every trial at solving the opioid addiction has failed because the drugs are effective analgesics. Additionally, the perception that pain is not always treated effectively catalyzed the growth of patient advocacy groups that support the use of opioids. Physicians are also enjoying immunity for prescribing opioids after the development of legislature-enacted pain treatment acts. As a result, the opioid epidemic has been growing and there is no solution that has worked so far.
The opioid epidemic is a growing concern in America with over 12.2 million people using these analgesics non-medically for over a period of six months (Meyer et al., 2014). Apparently it is impossible to identify the person, people or industry behind this addiction but a lot of people are dying from the use of opioids. Meyer and her colleagues (2014) confirm that as the number of prescriptions increased over the years, so did the deaths of more Americans. So it could be that doctors or physicians are the main people responsible for this epidemic. In another research, opioid addiction is traced back to the year 1996 when the American government introduced that The American Pain Society now recognizes pain as a vital sign (Berkun, Khechen & Berkun, 2016).
Berkun et al., (2016) and Meyer et al., (2014) suggest that the changes that took place and legislations allowed pharmaceutical companies to market opioids aggressively. According to Meyer et al., (2014), one of the most significant trials towards solving this problem is the use of the efforts of pharmacies. For example, the use of a “Good Faith Dispensing” policy in a major pharmacy has helped in the reduction of the circulation of opioids but a lot is yet to be done. However, Berkun and her colleagues (2016) call for the use of stricter legislation in dealing with this epidemic.
One of the major pros of dealing with opioid addiction is that it provides addicts with an opportunity to lead better lives (Meyer et al., 2014; Berkun et al., 2016). The con is that Americans are yet to agree on why opioids should be considered as a controlled substance (PDMP Training & Technical Assistance Center, 2014). Some states are not in support of controlling the use of this analgesic and the disparity in opinion means that the circulation and use of opioids is difficult to control (Berkun et al., 2016). Berkun et al., (2016) further suggest that controlling opioids may be a disadvantage to people who actually need the drug such as patients suffering from cancer.
By the month of January in the year 2017, most of America was not completely sure of how many people were suffering from addiction from opioids (Medina, 2017). A lot of disparities existed in relation to the steps that should be taken in helping the addicts. Most people made the assumption that drug addicts suffer from lack of impulse control. For this reason, the problem was considered a minor one.
In the month of October the year 2017, most of America were still unsure on whether the opioid addiction was an actual epidemic even when the negative impacts were evident (Salam, 2017). However, President Donald Trump made it clear that the opioid epidemic was an epidemic and there was a need to start dealing with the problem. By the month of December in the year 2017, the country had still not agreed on how to deal with the opioid epidemic (Smith & Davey, 2017). Everyone was still looking for a scapegoat with most people blaming legislation while others placed blame on the physicians.
There were still many suggestions placed on the table as probable solutions to the existing epidemic by January 2018 (Medina, 2018). One of the most effective ways of dealing with the problem is not to blame anyone but to try and find lasting solutions to the problem. However, some states are still unsure on whether the opioid addiction issue is an actual crisis and this halts any effort towards solving the problem.
According to the PDMP Training & Technical Assistance Center (2014), the opioid addiction epidemic will continue growing unless Americans come to terms with the danger of addiction and misuse of this analgesic. As per the website, most of the states in America support the control of the use of these opioids but most are yet to agree to the terms of its control. As a result, addicts still have a way of obtaining their drug of choice and this is a position that the country should avoid. The website makes it clear that with the current increase in addictions, it is necessary to find ways of dealing with the problem fast enough.
From the available information, it shows that there is an intensification of the therapeutic use of opioids over the past 20 years. As a result, a lot of people have gotten addicted to these analgesics and they are now among the most abused drugs. The problem is that the young American population is no longer highly productive due to the debilitating effects of opioid addiction. The creation of a legislation that brings immunity and the increase of patient advocacy groups have magnified the problem as physicians prescribing opioids are enjoying immunity. The greatest enemy in America is the inappropriate prescribing patterns of physicians due to perceived safety, and lack of knowledge.
Based on these findings, the opioid prescribing practices should be done with caution. It is necessary to determine the functional benefit of all pain management interventions and treatment especially for patients with chronic pain conditions. For example, patients who are suffering from cancer or other conditions requiring chronic opioid therapy need best practices in pain management as well as the application of universal precautions.
Additionally, the use of opioid therapy should be a component of a multifaceted application in pain management. Physicians should consider the risks for chronic opioid therapy in some minor chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or severe low back pain as ones that outweigh the benefits. More importantly, there is a need to conduct a thorough revision of the state and federal laws as well as policies in a manner that will protect the patient and not just the physician.