If you’ve just come out of surgery or are suffering from chronic pain, you probably appreciate medicine that numbs it, like opioids. Unfortunately, research shows that even medical use of opioids comes with a cost. Each year, millions of Americans become dependent on these addictive drugs, and the number of opioid deaths has quadrupled since the early 2000s.
In fact, a new report by the CDC shows just how short the timespan is for a patient’s addiction. If a doctor prescribes an opioid medication for longer than five days, the patient has a much greater chance of becoming dependent on it.
If patients get their hands on a second dose, one out of seven will form an addiction. In the event that patients must take a long-acting opioid, about 25% will still be using the drug one year later. Unfortunately, many will also still need the painkiller after three years.
Interestingly enough, the sales of opioids have risen at the same rate that people are dying from prescription drug overdose. In other words, both opioid sales and opioid deaths have quadrupled from 2000 to 2014. Needless to say, opioid addiction in America is certainly an epidemic.
Changing the Treatment
To combat this addiction, doctors are starting to avoid the prescriptions overall. The CDC recommends that doctors should not prescribe the drugs for chronic pain, and many doctors are deepening their knowledge of the prescription doses. For some cases, doctors are even opting for IV treatments of less harmful medicines, such as Tylenol.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie saw a dire need for change in doctors’ prescribing opioids. This state alone saw almost 1,600 drug-related deaths in 2015 alone.
Recently, the New Jersey governor signed legislation that restricts the drugs to a five-day time limit. Except for patients with chronic pain or cancer and for hospice use, doctors are forced to abide by the restriction. The new legislation also requires many health insurance companies to cover rehabilitating the addicted. With this new legislation, Gov. Christie is taking a huge measure that other state and national leaders need to follow.
Measures to Combat Opioid Addiction
National leaders, including current President Trump, have made enormous promises to fight opioid addiction. During the Presidential election, both Trump and Hillary touted such things as increasing doctors’ access to overdose-reversing drugs and improving medical training on addiction.
At the same time, Trump called out the FDA, challenging personnel to expedite the approval of anti-abuse drugs. He also claimed that he would stop opioids from being imported illegally from other countries.
While national leaders mostly support efforts to fight this epidemic drug addiction, little has been done about it on a national level. VA clinics have reduced some of their own opioid prescriptions to veterans, but not many other measures are being taken against the addictive drugs. Study after study shows just how the overuse of opioids is affecting Americans, but national leaders still seem to be focusing elsewhere.
National Leaders to Take Action
Because opioid addiction is causing so many deaths in the United States each year, national leaders need to take the epidemic seriously. Doctors need ample incentives or legislation to curb their prescriptions of these drugs. Also, medical professionals should be trained to spot addiction and take action against it.
Americans are suffering from opioid addiction at epidemic levels. While the addicts themselves should be seeking help, leaders and doctors alike need to take action as well. America needs to protect itself from the thousands of tragic opioid deaths that happen each year and stop the drug addiction in its tracks.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.