Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
The Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic in the USA was announced by the The Center for Disease Control (CDC) earlier this year. Some of my colleagues in the field of substance abuse treatment including myself believe the CDC is in denial if it thinks the epidemic is new. Travel to almost any urban area in the country and you can witness the devastation the heroin use has caused. Then go visit a middle or upper class community and interview some folk to find out how long the secret of prescription drug abuse has been kept.
Opioid abuse in any form has been a serious problem in communities but sometimes the issue is not publicly recognized until the problem hits certain areas and communities of the country.
However, bottom line we are all hopeful that with this announcement help and change will come that will be to the benefit of the clients and families affected by the disease of addiction.
In a July, 2014 press release the CDC reported that an estimated 259 million opioid prescriptions were written by health care providers in 2012. An estimated 44 Americans die daily from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses.
In the state of Virginia in 2014 prescription opioid and heroin overdose deaths for the first time surpassed the deaths from auto accidents.
In 2008 as I traveled around the country surveying opioid treatment programs that dispense Methadone I noticed regardless if I was on the West or East coast the demographics of the clients were changing. This I had thought was a change that was unique to the clinic I worked at in Virginia due to our location.
Significant changes noticed:
- Clients were being admitted at a younger age 19 -25
- Admissions for Oxycodone/Percocet vs heroin increased
During that time as people across the country were losing his/her jobs they were losing their insurance. As I facilitated intake interviews of clients at my clinic I also interviewed clients at the facilities I surveyed in other states. It was not uncommon for clients to discuss having abused medication for a long time hiding it from their doctor. When jobs were lost some took a friend or family members medication. When that option ran out and for those who did not have that option the clients found people to purchase the pills from.
The lowest cost per pill reported to me was $30.00 with some clients taking over 15 pills per day. It is now 2016 and the number of admissions for the prescription opioid drug user continues to increase.
58% of the overdose deaths in 2014 were due to opioids or heroin. 37% of that number was from pain medications and 19% heroin.
The use of heroin has also increased significantly. Those who can’t afford the cost of street pills are buying cheaper low grade heroin. The majority of heroin on the street across the nation is laced with contaminants like fentanyl which is a highly potent opioid used by itself. This drug addition to heroin being sold has had an impact on the higher overdose and death rates.
Opioid abuse in any form has been a serious problem in communities but sometimes the issue is not publicly recognized until the problem hits certain areas and communities of the country. One reason is because the stigma is strong regarding medicated assisted treatment and people turning a blind eye thinking this problem “is not in my community.”
Stigma and Treatment
Medicated assisted treatment programs dispensing methadone/methadose and/or prescribing suboxone have been helpful to thousands. There are arguments that using either is just substituting one drug for another. The difference is that clients in a Medicated Assisted Treatment program are monitored by a doctor. The doctor and the program as a whole are highly regulated by local, state and federal regulations. Patient doses of medication are monitored and individual and group counseling is provided.
No one treatment method is for everyone. Having options for help with addiction is saving lives. The prescription drug abuse epidemic has not discriminated and is a nationwide issue. Unfortunately in some states medicated assisted treatment is frowned upon. Clinics are allowed at a very minimum or not at all. Resulting in clients traveling 50 miles or more for treatment. Despite the fact that information and research supporting medicated assisted treatment has grown.
How You Can Help
- You can start by educating yourself and your family about addiction and your community
- Google your state and addiction to find statistics on youth and elderly use
- Write your local and state representatives and inquire how he/she votes on this topic
- Remember that if this issue has not hit your family it doesn’t mean it never will.
- If there is a treatment program outpatient or inpatient call and inquire if you can have a tour. You don’t have to wait until you or someone you know needs help. Know who is in your community. If you don’t need help perhaps you can give some help. Donate time or goods.
- Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for literature targeting professionals in the field, families, children and much more.
- Participate in community September Recovery Month Activities
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Here is a good resource to learn more about this opiate crisis.
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