Opioid Addiction & Overdose Epidemic
“We can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem”-anonymous Sheriff.
No, we can’t.
We are currently witnessing and experiencing an Opioid Addiction & Overdose Epidemic and we are all part of the solution. We are in the aftermath of the Pill Mill crackdown.
Pharmaceutical opiates (pain pills) have become more difficult to get due to government pressures, investigations, arrests, and regulations. Physicians have become more conservative with prescribing. The days of walking in with an MRI and a predetermined cocktail list of what medication you want filled for your cash contribution to the office, is over. Pharmacies scrutinize and review prescriptions with an ID Channel curiosity. Pharmaceutical companies put out “safer” alternatives and have switched their efforts to the medication assisted treatment space.
What remained was the countless number of addicts left craving, withdrawing, and struggling with a ruthless disease. We definitely weren’t ready to help them all. As a community and country we weren’t even ready to understand their suffering and need for help.
From the sickness, crime, and chaos came the perfect storm. Heroin is introduced to mainstream America. It’s cheaper, easier to get, available in every neighborhood (yes, even yours), and you don’t even need a fake MRI. Boom!
What can we do about this? The arrests and regulations alone can’t do it. The planned deportations and blaming Mexico for our problem will not do it. Let me not go too far on this issue because I don’t care about the politics, I only want to destroy this disease and save lives.
Crushing the stigma related to addiction, recovery, and those struggling with it is a great start. Creating more access to quality healthcare is another leap forward. A huge leap actually. Again, I don’t want to get too deep into our healthcare problems because it will turn this into a political discussion.
Our solution includes admitting that this epidemic is here and our friends, loved ones, children, parents, and grandparents are all suffering from this. Knowing that heroin is not our initial problem because 80% of heroin addicts previously misused pain medications. Understanding that heroin and pain medications are Opioid Agonists. That means that heroin and pain medications are the same to the brain. In basic street language we have illegal heroin and legal heroin, only we didn’t get to vote on this like we did on marijuana. The medicinal purpose of anything doesn’t mean safe. It means that when done correctly it can be effective.
Many people are prescribed pain medication for legitimate reasons but without an effective plan to discontinue or replace with a non-addictive alternative. The physical dependence can happen to anyone and come without notice. We are all vulnerable. What happens from here is fueled by many other factors. These can be emotional, environmental, and/or genetic.
The alternative procedures and treatments require more research and approval for medical billing. The replacement therapies need to be supported and monitored so that recovering addicts don’t become a targeted population for those only interested in another revenue stream. For example, it’s unfortunate that even when you have medical insurance and go to an in-network healthcare provider, they only accept self-pay for addiction treatment. Can you imagine if your doctor required you to pay cash for any cardiac issue because your insurance carrier doesn’t offer an adequate reimbursement? If diabetics had to self-pay? How is this acceptable?
Lastly, we can all carry a form of Naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that is used to prevent or reverse the effects of an opioid. It’s being used to save the lives of individuals who are suffering from an overdose of opioid medication or heroin. It can be found under the brand names EVZIO and NARCAN. Any physician can prescribe it to you. Anyone can get it. Everyone should. If Zika killed just 10% of those killed by opioids daily the antidote would be in every medicine cabinet.
Imagine sitting in a restaurant and your dinner is disrupted by cries that someone has been found in the bathroom unconscious. If you are armed with Naloxone you can use it on the individual while someone calls 911. If the person is suffering from an opioid overdose you will see an immediate reversal in action. You just bought this person some time until the emergency services arrives. You just saved a life. A life that would’ve otherwise been lost. If the person was not suffering from an opioid overdose the medication will not work but most importantly is not known to further complicate any other health emergency. Please google Naloxone for more information and how to get it.
I’m asking us all to be the solution. Be armed with knowledge, empathy, and Naloxone. Feel free to contact me directly for any additional assistance on how to navigate the “business” of recovery and get help NOW.