The drug overdose crisis fueled by the deadly opioid epidemic is at an all-time high. In fact, it is now the deadliest crisis in the history of the United States. Over the next ten years, if not reversed, the calamity will continue and the death toll will rise to levels equaling the population of Miami. Solutions to the opioid epidemic may be beginning to emerge and California rehab treatment centers are ready.
Expert Opinions, Surprising Results
The American Journal of Public Health published a new study conducted by Stanford Researchers Margaret Brandeau, Keith Humphreys, and Allison Pitt. The purpose of the study was to gather the opinions of experts to estimate the death toll due because of opioid overdose over a span of the next ten years. Using a mathematical model, the researchers then proposed ideas for different policies that could help reduce the calculations of the outcome.
Although the researchers admit that because they are trying to predict the future, the numbers may be off a bit or can change. That said, they estimated the next decade would see roughly 510,000 people deaths from opiate-related causes. These deaths will result from overdosing, sharing needles (HIV infections), and other related causes due to opioid abuse.
According to Pitt, if you took into consideration last year’s opiate overdoses from the Rise in Opioid Overdose Deaths in 2017, the number may be even higher.
Policymakers Are Key Holders to Solutions
There is good news in light of all this; according to the study, there are solutions to the opioid epidemic that would decrease the death toll numbers. However, it would require the policymakers in the US to do more than what they are already doing.
Some suggestions include enhancing promising addiction treatments including the distribution of methadone and buprenorphine, which may eliminate 12,500 of the deaths in that ten-year span. Making Naloxone (the antidote for opioid overdose) more easily accessible could reduce the number of deaths even further by an estimated 21,200. Lastly, only prescribing painkillers to those who really need them could eliminate 8,000 deaths within the next ten years.
While some may insist cutting back on prescription painkillers may help the situation, the truth is, the study concluded this approach likely would do more harm than good. In fact, it could even cause an increase in deaths, since those who really need and benefit from pain pills will obtain them illegally. Illicit drugs are often more dangerous than their legal counterparts.
However, arguments maintain it is not so hard to determine if someone is really in pain or not, especially for a doctor. Proponents of this approach adamantly believe painkillers can indeed be prescribed only to those who really need them and not to someone complaining about a bump on the head or other.
Solutions to the Opioid Epidemic
One of the studies emphasized is that although there may be policies much more effective than others, policy changes alone cannot end such a massive crisis. No single policy will even come close to reducing deaths for estimated in the predicted ten-year span.
The solutions proposed for interventions to significantly reduce painkiller and heroin-related deaths over a ten-year span include:
- Easier access to naloxone
- More needle exchange programs
- Improved psychosocial treatments
- Increased medication-based treatment
The model suggests that while not one policy is enough to make any meaningful improvements on its own, the multiple policies together can fight this preventable crisis and reduce the death toll expected.
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How the Problem Started
In recent years, before doctors were reluctant to prescribe painkillers, individuals were paying a visit to the doctor (or dentist) for any little ache or pain just to get a prescription for pain pills. At the time, patients did not know of the dangers they were putting themselves in just to feel good for a few short hours.
Unfortunately, those few short hours led to longer hours, then days, weeks, months, and years for many individuals who wanted to continue feeling good at any cost. As addictions grew, the question of opioid safety slowly came into question.
Truth is, some people can find themselves addicted after taking painkillers for just a few days, or immune to the prescribed dose where they need more to feel that high. It is when physicians refuse to up the dose or are unwilling to prescribe more the danger of searching for street drugs can occur. In search of a substitute for painkillers to help them feel good again, some individuals will turn to heroin. Others may begin using illicit drugs like fentanyl, which is a class of synthetic drugs deemed extremely harmful and even deadly.
Restricting Prescriptions Worsens the Problem
It may come as a surprise, but the researchers’ model found that within a time span of ten years if doctors were restricted from prescribing pain medication for chronic pain, forced to reduce or reschedule prescriptions or use monitoring programs the number of deaths would actually increase. Not just by a few hundred or thousand, but by tens of thousands. This is due to the increase in deaths caused by heroin and other illicit drugs outnumbering painkiller deaths.
However, other interventions, including reducing prescriptions for acute and transitional pain, reformulating drugs to reduce misuse, as well as raise opioid disposal programs would indeed help prevent more people from dying after five years in a ten-year study span.
Additional help to curb the epidemic include policies where there would be more addiction rehabilitation facilities available, such as California heroin treatment centers, so the many addicted individuals could seek help rather than to seek illicit drugs.
Since each possible solution can reduce the death toll down by single-digit percentages, the researchers concluded putting all possible solutions to work together would be necessary to make a significant impact on the opiate crisis. Pitt explains that while it would be beneficial to enhance addiction treatments, it would not be enough to make a difference without some sort of prescription reduction strategy.
Humphreys made a good point claiming, if those addicted to pain pills were to lose access to their medication, they will look to other sources. This very well will make things even worse, but his suggestion was to place more emphasis on preventing others from becoming addicted to painkillers.
California Heroin Treatment Centers
California has many treatment centers with solutions to help recover from opioid addiction. It is not an easy road, but it can be crossed, especially with people willing to travel right beside you to help you along the way.
There are therapeutic treatments and exclusive programs catered to meet your needs. Matching your requirements to the right program can help you live a drug-free life. If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, please contact Ocean Hills Recovery today for help.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.