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Why isn’t the opioid epidemic going away?

Posted on 05-31-16 in Drug Addiction, Substance Abuse, Treatment

The opioid epidemic is real and may be here to stay. If you search “opioids” in Google, 8,760,000 hits come up and that number is growing. It is difficult to read or watch the news without coming across an article on the opioid epidemic in America. These prescription painkillers are one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs in the world and are also found on the street in illegal forms such as heroin.

In 2014 alone, 28,000 people died from opioid-related deaths. This is more than any year on record, and at least half of these deaths involved a prescription opioid. Let’s put this into perspective. On average 31,537 people die from gun violence in one year. So an individual is almost as likely to die from opioids as they are from gun violence. Both of these death tolls can be prevented.

Who’s to blame?

It is easy to point the finger and to blame a certain industry for the opioid epidemic. Many believe that health care professionals are to blame because they are overprescribing prescription painkillers, leading to opioid dependence. Others point fingers at pharmaceutical companies, as they manufacture and supply these drugs. Politicians are often blamed because they are not acting fast enough to prevent this epidemic. In reality, every single person who is involved in the opioid epidemic is to blame. This includes:

  • Teachers for not educating their students enough on the importance of staying away from drugs
  • Parents for not educating themselves and their children about the dangers of drugs, including those prescribed by a doctor
  • The media for not shining a light on the epidemic with enough factual information
  • Consumers for taking these drugs without doing their own research on the side effects
  • Health care professionals for overprescribing these medications
  • Pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing these drugs
  • Politicians for not enforcing stricter laws

In other words, everyone in one way or another is responsible for this epidemic. It does not benefit anyone to play the blame game.

Share the responsibility

As a society, we must all take an active role in stopping this epidemic. Most people know an individual who has taken prescription painkillers and subsequently became addicted. It is important to share these experiences with others.

Educating children on pain, drugs, alcohol and mental health are as important as educating them about the importance of attending school.

Medical schools need to introduce pain and pain management into their curriculum so medical students know how to treat pain without using opioids. The majority of medical schools do not teach about treating pain, and the only drugs most doctors know about are opioids. Alternative medicine such as acupuncture should also be introduced to broaden the young physician’s toolbox.

The media needs to stop portraying drugs on television, in movies and in songs as a form of entertainment and an escape from society. There are many ways to help alleviate and prevent this growing epidemic but it involves everyone taking responsibility and holding each other accountable.

Holding yourself, your friends, your family members, your patients and your clients accountable are necessary. Pointing fingers and blaming each other won’t help and may only aggravate the situation.

About us

The Sovereign Health Group is a leading behavioral health treatment provider with locations across the United States. We treat people with substance addiction, providing a state-of-the-art prescription drug rehab and an opiate treatment program. In addition, we treat mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions, using a vast array of evidence-based treatment modalities so that each treatment plan is customized to each individual patient. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at the Sovereign Health Group and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.