Coordinated efforts are needed to check and reverse the harmful effects of the opioid epidemic ravaging the entire United States, a panel of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has said. The experts in their report titled “Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use” suggested drastic changes in the ways that doctors treat pain and patients deal with feeling of uneasiness due to severe aches. The committee also recommended an overhaul of the insurance sector for a better pain management.
Keeping in mind the rising number of people hooked on prescription medicines each year, the panel warned that steps designed to curtail availability of the medications to prevent emergence of future addicts might give way to the existing ones looking for cheap and more dangerous alternatives like fentanyl and heroin.
Steps to curb overdose deaths
Elucidating their observations, the experts in their report released on July 13, wrote, “…It is therefore ethically imperative to couple a strategy for reducing lawful access to opioids with an investment in treatment for the millions of individuals already hooked on the painkillers.”
The suggestions are in contradiction to current discussions about a health care bill expected to curb accessibility to addiction recovery. The panel has urged both the federal and state governments to allow “universal access” to addiction recovery centers, community-based programs and jails.
The panel also stated that as opposed to the incumbent system of imposing stiff criminal penalties for drug-related offenses, state officials should stress on adoption of alternate practices, including needle exchange programs, opening safe havens for those who inject themselves with drugs and increased access to naloxone, an effective opioid-reversal agent. Adoption of such practices would result in lowering of overdose deaths, in addition to curtailing prevention of spread of diseases caused by sharing of injection needles.
The suggestions come at a time when federal agencies, health advocates and community service providers are busy mulling over efficient measures to curtail the number of opioid overdose deaths, while also looking for efficacious methods that can lower the number of people resorting to use of drugs like heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 183,000 Americans succumbed to overdoses of prescription painkillers between 1999 and 2015. Another report by the CDC in July 2015 shows how deaths related to heroin overdose had gone up by 63 percent since 2002. The greatest increase in heroin use was found mostly among users of opioid pain relievers.
The findings of the NASEM report are of special significance to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) involved in regulation of opioid painkillers. The panel members have put forth that new formulations of opioid medicines must be in accordance with higher standards and that drug makers must carry out detailed studies of their products despite FDA’s approval.
Road to recovery
Prescription opioids are highly addictive. The CDC reports that about 25 percent people take prescription opioid drugs for long term for non-cancer pain struggle with addiction. However, addiction to opioid painkillers can be treated. Sovereign Health is a leading mental and behavioral health care provider in the U.S. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online for information about our drug addiction treatment centers spread across the country. Our representatives can guide you with the relevant information regarding treatment. Contact us for the most comprehensive drug addiction treatment programs.