Are we living through an opioid crisis?

Are we living through an opioid crisis?

A new study says more than one in three Americans were prescribed opioids in 2015.  The exact estimated total is 92 million Americans, or 38 percent of the population.

While these opioids were legally prescribed, the study claims these drugs have been promoting extensive addiction and overdose deaths. The study backs up this claim by stating that 11.5 million people, about five percent of the American population, misused prescribed opioids.

Research shows that since 1999, overdose deaths involving opioids have quadrupled. The impact is so alarming that the White House recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency.

The study believes there may be several causes to opioid misuse:

  • Relatives are passing on their prescribed opioids to one another
  • Patients are taking larger doses than prescribed
  • Patients are using prescribed opioids to get high

As a result of the study, the following recommendations have been suggested to help combat the problem:

  • Patients should have to sign an opioid treatment agreement outlining risks and benefits.
  • New laws should allow pharmacists to fill only half of a prescription at a time.
  • Doctors should prescribe lower doses of opioids for shorter time periods.
  • Doctors should consider a “stepped-care” approach by trying to manage the patient’s pain without drugs first. For example, physical therapy or acupuncture. Then, if that doesn’t work, a milder pain medication would be prescribed such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Only after these steps have failed would opioids then be considered an option.

If you think you are experiencing opioid addiction, you should seek the help of a medical professional immediately. Dr. Pradeep Thapar, a psychiatrist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. lists the following as symptoms of opioid addiction:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Decreased motivation
  • Unsuccessful attempts to decrease opioid use
  • Extensive time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug
  • Abandonment of responsibilities and usual hobbies and activities
  • Withdrawal symptoms: cravings, cramps, nausea, sweating, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, dilated pupils

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2 Comments

  1. The conclusions of the “study” mentioned above have me so irritated I don’t know where to start.

    People who abuse drugs are going to do it regardless of were or how they get them. I’ve been on opioids for several years. I take them as prescribed and have no issues. I had one doctor tell me to try acetaminophen. I immediately found a new doctor. OTC drugs do not relieve severe pain.

    The laws are already a hassle, don’t make them worse.

    The pharmacist can judge whether to fill the entire prescription?! Pharmacists are not medical doctors and should have no say in how a prescription is filled.

    People who have never experienced severe, debilitating pain have no room to tell others, including doctors, how to relieve that pain.

  2. I agree whole heartedly. I have been dealing with fibromyalgia for almost two decades now. The opioid I have been taking the entire time only dulls the constant pain I am in.

    Since they have changed the classification, the people who use these medications responsibly are treated like addicts and are constantly dealing with doctors that, understandably, don’t want to put their jobs in jeopardy by allowing their patients to have these opioids as they can be held responsible for idiots that are misusing the medication. Also as someone who quickly adapts to medication, there is no hope of ever increasing the dosage or getting a stronger medicine.

    Responsible patients should not have to pay the price for the states, such as Florida, that once had pain centers on every corner and gave out the strongest opioids to any person that had the money to buy them.

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About the Author

Jamie Bonnema
Jamie Bonnema

Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.

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