Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Three Things We Should All Know About the Opioid Crisis

I attended the Vox Unconference, the World Heath Care Congress and a pharmacy summit this spring. There was one topic that overlapped the three events--the opioid crisis. It's all over the news, but so frightening, I think it bears mentioning here. Here are some things you need to know--especially if you're a parent.
  1. The risk of continued opioid use increases after 4 to 5 days. If there is a history of addiction in your family, even that amount of time may not be worth the risk.
  2. Opioids are not effective for treating chronic pain. They may work for a month or so, but the effect is likely to diminish even at increased dosages. Eventually, you'll be left with your chronic pain and a drug dependency. Some people even experience hyperalgesia, a greater sensitivity to pain after taking narcotics for longer periods of time.
  3. How pain came to be the fifth vital sign. The New Yorker ran through a good history in Who is Responsible for the Pain-Pill Epidemic. Vox reported, "US doctors wanted to treat pain as a serious medical problem. But when pharmaceutical companies pushed opioid painkillers with a misleading marketing campaign, they started a drug crisis."
Vox did a really great story on the crisis: How the opioid epidemic became America’s worst drug crisis ever, in 15 maps and charts. Please take a few minutes to scroll through it and watch the 4 minute video.

Things are really bad. A few weeks ago CBS News reported, "For the second time this year, a coroner's office in Ohio has run out of space for dead bodies due to the opioid epidemic." The opioid epidemic was directly responsible for 33,000 deaths in 2015. There were 52,000 drug related deaths overall. Much of the illicit drug use began with the use of legitimate prescriptions for opioid painkillers. As the government cracked down on how opioids are prescribed, people who are addicted switched to heroin. Horribly, things seem to be getting worse, not better. Take a look at this NY Times article, You Draw It: Just How Bad Is the Drug Overdose Epidemic? (Thanks for sharing this Ellen.)

There is tons of good information available. Here are some recommendations if you want to explore this topic in greater detail.

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