There is no doubt, that the use of opioids has increased over the last 60+ years, spurred on by advertising to the general public, and prescribed willy-nilly by physicians. Apparently, no one saw the impact opioids would one day have on our society.
We have known for thousands of years how addictive opiates are. Look it up.
In 2015, one in three people in the US had been prescribed an opioid pain medication. In many cases, people use their pain medication, and don’t need a refill, however, in many other cases, the need for continued pain treatment is necessary. Over the years, doctors have created many opioid dependent patients. Whether knowingly, or not, this is an issue that the public, and some very sick people, are now paying for, with their lives.
What happens to those people who have become addicted to pain medications? Well, they either stop cold turkey when their prescriptions run out, or they learn how to get what they need. In hospitals, and doctor’s offices, this is called “Drug Seeking Behavior.” When a person is constantly falling down, having back pain, or tooth pain, they may be “flagged” as a drug seeker. This behavior only hurts the seeker, as they are “flagged”, and will literally have to have their femur sticking out of their leg to receive any pain meds., any time soon.
Problem solved? Not by a long shot.
Once the needy seeker realizes they can no longer get pain meds through the normal channels, they will no doubt look elsewhere. Elsewhere, is in your medicine cabinet, or from someone selling pills on the street. Pills on the street are expensive. This is why heroin has become the go-to drug. Heroin is relatively cheap, easy to find, and extremely addictive. Withdrawal from heroin is a nightmare, which is why so many continue to use.
Heroin is the scourge of today’s society. It’s everywhere. Everyone from Housewives, to teenagers are using it. In 2015, at least 13,000 people died due to heroin overdose in the US. This number has likely increased since, even with this now being deemed a “crisis”. Check the CDC stats.
So, now we have a “crisis”. Well people, we had a “crisis” long ago, but it wasn’t until well to do people, in nice suburban neighborhoods began to succumb to it’s evil embrace, that the world finally took notice, and rooted out just one of the causes: opioid based pain medication abuse.
I don’t think that they realize that being on pain meds doesn’t make you an addict.
As a result of this “newly discovered crisis”, we are now at war with opioids. More specifically, prescription pain meds. This war is being waged in order to cut down on opioid related addiction, and death. Well, let’s take a closer look at what this “war” will accomplish. One thing nags at me. If you are in pain, and cannot get pain meds, what will you do? If you have been on pain meds for years, and still need them, what will you do? You will go to a pain management clinic once per week, and receive a 1 week supply of your pain meds. You will have to travel to the clinic, which could be an hour or more away, pee in a cup, and be counseled, each week. (If there is anything in your urine that indicates you are using more than you have been given, or using another substance, you will be cut off, or denied. You will also be required to go to drug counseling for 30 days, during which, you have no meds.) Yep, that’s right, cold turkey. There will be a lot of that. It’s either pain management, or hitting the streets. Which option will they choose?
Now, I’m not saying that this is the way it works everywhere, things may be different in your state. I am also not implying that everyone on pain meds is addicted, but we won’t know the full impact of this “war” until the powers that be start pulling everyone off of their pain meds.
Unless “they” have a plan, that we don’t know about yet.
In my opinion, and that is just what it is, this is going to result in an serious increase in heroin use, addiction, and deaths, either from overdoses, or suicide, by people who cannot bear to live in pain.
I have never believed that addiction is a disease. Again, I may be wrong, but I believe it is more of a chemical imbalance, or genetic flaw, that is the trigger for people self medicate with their drug of choice, and why each addict chooses a different type of drug to self medicate with. Your neighbor, for example, may have a nicotine addiction, whereas you, may have an alcohol addiction, or none at all. (Yes, sugar is also an addictive substance, leading to an ever increasing diabetic, and obese population.)
Whatever the truth is, I believe that calling addiction a “disease” has made us more comfortable with it, and allows us to blame something other than ourselves for our issues, and actions. It has also given the media the ability to call this crisis, an “epidemic” which indicates not only a disease, but one which can spread to others. Seriously??!! After all, no one is forcing you to shoot the heroin, drink that bottle of vodka, or smoke that cigarette. YOU have to make the effort to obtain, and use these substances.
So, what shall we do? Pass out Narcan, like candy. (Narcan will revive most who overdose on opiate based drugs.) “It’s ok, if I O.D., they’ll just give me Narcan.” Yeah, good plan. Eye roll.
We will also send people to clinics where they can get opioid substitutes, like methadone, or suboxone. Another mistake, I think, as there is no way out of the cycle of substance abuse, if you substitute one addiction for another, without addressing the root cause. Of course, each addict may need a different treatment plan.
I am sure we will know soon enough, if the handling of the opioid crisis is actually helping, rather than creating more heroin users, and, in turn, more crime, and death. I feel sorry for those of us who have chronic pain, and may have their pain meds taken away or dosage significantly reduced, and regulated. I think it is irresponsible to treat people like this, without having an effective pain relieving substitute readily available, and treatment plans implemented. Many people will be blindsided by the new regulations, and feel abandoned, by their doctors.
There is an ever increasing population of people with chronic pain who do not use opiate pain medications, and I am one of them. I cannot physically tolerate opiates in an amount that would lessen my pain, and along with my PCP, we have been trying alternatives. It is hit or miss, however, as I am unable to tolerate many pharmaceuticals. There are plenty more out there like me who, like it or not, must exist every day in pain, until a solution is found.
Many are turning to medical marijuana, and CBD products, and have seen wonderful results, with everything from pain, to seizures. This is something that needs to be available to everyone, prescribed, and covered by insurance. I shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for a new doctor to prescribe it, and then more to get the “card” then, travel to a dispensary, and spend more cash, for my marijuana, or CBD products…again not covered by insurance. People with very low incomes, and subsidized insurance, are again, left with limited options.
Are we looking at a future where marijuana and CBD products are controlled by BIG PHARMA? I surely hope not.
I don’t pretend to have a solution. I do, however have some insight into how addiction can destroy a person, a family, and a community. I am concerned about the impact this crack down on opioid prescription meds will have. Will it drive more people to find safer options, or will it drive them to the brink?
Only time will tell.