Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdose in America

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As time progresses, overdoses due to the misuse of prescribed opioids has dramatically increased and has become the second most common drug use disorder within the United States.  The progression of this epidemic affects not only those who are misusing the prescription pain killers, but everyone around them and it has to stop.

The prescription opioid overdose crisis in America is an issue that the government needs to address immediately. Just last year, about 72,000 Americans died of drug overdose, specifically of illicit drugs and opioids. Statistically, over 115 people die every day in the United States due to opioid overdose. In 2015, more than 1/3 of the adult population had formerly misused prescription pain relievers. The sharpest increase in drug-related deaths occurred in 2016, where over 20,000 people died from the misuse of Fentanyl and other related drugs. With these statistics being so dramatically high, we have to start asking ourselves what we are doing to cause this.

So, how did we get here? In the late '90's, pharmaceutical companies made a promise that patients would not become addicted to prescribed opioids, which led physicians to prescribe them more frequently. It is also common for patients to get possession of opioids through many different prescribers/pharmacies and overlapping prescriptions, which leads to a far greater risk of overdose.

This epidemic involves the whole country and does not just affect the individuals misusing the prescription drugs. I speak from personal experience after watching my own grandmother battle this problem after multiple surgeries, when I say that it affects everyone around them as well. There are a few different types of patients when it comes to opioid prescription. While some have every intention of using these drugs for the sole purpose of catching a high, many patients have no intention at all on getting hooked on these extremely addictive drugs. As patients begin to become addicted to opioids, it leads them to try other drugs as well. Statistics show that prescription opioids are a gateway drug and about 6-8% of patients who misuse their prescribed opioids tend to transition to heroine. This issue has also given rise to HIV and Hepatitis C as well as problems involving infants. Mothers who abuse opioids while pregnant with their child cause neonatal abstinence syndrome. This syndrome causes the baby to have withdrawals from a substance their mother was abusing while they were in the womb. This is a very painful process for the baby and is completely preventable.  Another way the opioid epidemic has a major impact on our communities within the United States is through crime.  Those who are involved with abusing opioids find themselves involved in more criminal justice settings.  

This opioid epidemic is not a new issue to the government, however it is worsening each day. There have been organizations that have tried to get this epidemic under control but have yet to find an effective solution. The HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has tried combating the opioid overdose crisis by creating easier access to treatment/recovery, advertising overdose-reversing drugs, improving surveillance, supporting pain addiction research and improving other solutions to pain management.  Another program that ended up falling through but was created in order to help with this issue was DAWN, by keeping track and keeping surveillance after the opioid was prescribed.  Most programs in place today only take effect after the pain killers have been prescribed, but we need a program in place that will prevent these overdoses as opposed to just trying to fix the problem after the fact.

 We would like to address Congress and urge them to adopt a specific policy in order to combat the opioid overdose crisis in America.  We would like to urge them to adopt a policy requiring each individual state to order a substance abuse disorder assessment prior to prescribing patients opioids in each practice.  With this type of evaluation process, physicians would be able to screen for the patient's history of drug use, addiction, or any psychiatric conditions that might lead to addiction. As of right now, only 34 out of 51 states (50 states plus the District of Columbia) require an assessment like this. By forcing each state to implement this policy, it will greatly reduce the amount of opioids being prescribed and will further push for other solutions and treatments for chronic pain.

 This crisis not only affects our communities; it also affects the whole nation. With a policy like this in place, our communities would be a much better and safer place, which would help improve the United States as a whole. Please sign this petition to prevent someone else's grandmother or future child from having to go through immense pain and struggle. We need change, and we need it fast. We need congress to implement a policy like this in order to save innocent lives that are being taken by this preventable addiction.

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Opioid Overdose Crisis

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Why Do Adults Misuse Prescription Drugs?

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3210/ShortReport-3210.html

 

NCBI

Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK458661/

 

Kelly Dineen and James DuBois

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Can Physicians Prescribe Opioids to Treat Pain Adequately While Avoiding Legal Sanction?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5494184/

 

National Conference of State Legislatures

Prescribing Policies: States Confront Opioid Overdose Epidemic

http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/prescribing-policies-states-confront-opioid-overdose-epidemic.aspx

 

American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons

The Rules for Opioid Prescribing in 2018

https://www.aaos.org/AAOSNow/2018/May/YourAAOS/youraaos01/?ssopc=1

 

National Capital Poison Center

History of the Opioid Epidemic: How did we get here?

https://www.poison.org/articles/opioid-epidemic-history-and-prescribing-patterns-182 

 

Athenainsight

Infographic: state-by-state breakdown of opioid regulations

https://www.athenahealth.com/insight/infographic-opioid-regulations-state-by-state