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:
- 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
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.