Opioids: The National Epidemic

I wanted to take this time to shed some light on a steadily growing concern, one that has been delivering its catastrophic aftermath for quite some time. One that is affecting almost everyone, from teenagers to athletes, injured workers, post-surgical patients, college kids, parents and all the way to the top with the elderly! Anyone who may have suffered an orthopedic injury, car accident, slip and fall or may have experienced a catastrophic event there is a high risk that you may have this affliction. Addiction can find its way through infinite possibilities, it can hurt good families or bad people. It can turn good people into bad as well. Our nation is currently in the throws of an Opioid Epidemic; a 50-state epidemic at that! One that has gotten so out of control that in fact the Governor of Florida has declared the opioid epidemic a Public Health Emergency across the state.

While there has been historical data for heroin and narcotic abusers the other side of the table shows that normal day to day people can be taken by this too. In too many communities around the country, people are struggling with no sign of relief.  Just in our small pocket of the nation we’ve seen many a client that have gone through the tightrope act we call the “WC system or process” and in the end there may be a high risk of opioid dependency leftover or the possibility in being addicted. Now imagine multiplying that by a national scale. This is serious!

I completely understand having the need for prescription pain killers if I were to sprain my knee, dislocate a shoulder or be post surgical on anything but the chance of gaining an addiction towards a narcotic medication is scary to me. On top of that I’m not forgetting the internal damage you may be causing, slowly deteriorating your insides. So who makes out on this is my question. In my opinion why approve a medicine that has a handful of negative repercussions?

Here’s some information I pulled from the New England Journal of Medicine.

The extended prescription of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain has questionable benefits for individual patients and presents substantial public health risks. The risks of overdose and addiction from this prescribing practice — both among patients with chronic pain and the public at large — increase with higher doses, longer duration of prescribing, and perhaps the use of long-acting opioids.

So with all of the bad press and high risk of overdose and possible death why is it still common practice to prescribe these? Simple answer is that money makes the world go around.

Some of my past articles have expressed frustration towards those medical providers who have been convicted of fraud and may have their names engraved on the DIR site’s “ousted from practicing list”. The findings for these dubious people showed either a pattern of pumping and billing liens with either padded treatment, compound cream schemes, auto filling & dispensing prescription meds by the bag full, double billing DME, excessive Radiology and the list goes on. Big Pharma and the wave of past fraudulent bilkers have left an imprint and a ripple affect which we will see for some time to come. Here’s an abstract thought, with the legalization of medical marijuana and current cases involving injured workers opting for this path in pain management I’m curious to see if this will be beneficial for the patient and for the system or will it be just another medication to throw in the cabinet giving others a “high” return on investment, no pun intended. Well optimism is key so I’m hoping for breakthroughs in medicine so that our kids will not be exposed to this and if there is a natural and nonaddictive alternative than I would hope the people who make these decisions would do so and begin the steps in eradicating such narcotic medicines.

So my next question is what is our nation doing about this and why isn’t there more awareness, detox programs and information on this lethal epidemic that is sweeping our nation. We’ll have to wait and see because there is a bill in the hands of the House Appropriation Committee being tweaked and tuned. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) portion of the Omnibus includes $161billion in discretionary funding. Some of this funding can be used to expand efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. There is a proposed $3.6 billion budget to continue to fund the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). All of that money doesn’t mean a thing unless there is a solid plan to disperse, appoint and ultimately complete. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on this bill in hopes that the funding is actually going towards rehabilitation and enrichment. Our society needs it!

My friends, thank you for your time and feel free to respond with any insight should you like.

 

Laura M Wilson