The opioid crisis in America has been raging for decades. Recent government regulations seek to eradicate this crisis from the country, but the problem is complex and its effects are far reaching. Many chronic pain patients rely on opioids to help them function and lead a normal life, but new limitations have caused many to lose access to their medication. This causes a very dangerous reality where they are forced to turn to illegal drugs for relief, but sadly, many chose suicide out of desperation.
This article does not report to be comprehensive, but offers some key issues on the current state of the opioid crisis in America:
In response to the opioid crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created new guidelines for prescribing opioid pain medication in 2016. Theses guideline are meant to stop doctors from over-prescribing opioids by limiting the scope of which patients qualify. These regulations also limit the amounts of opioids current patients with chronic pain can get. While this seems like a logical step in attacking the opioid crisis, it is hurting many people who depend on opioid pain medication for their chronic pain.
“We are targeting the most vulnerable and sickest people who have been on opioids a long time.” Says Dr. Stefan Kertesz, an Addiction Specialist from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Doctors feel that they are limited in how the prescribe pain medication and many have limited their prescriptions substantially for fear of being reprimanded by the government.
The crisis of the opioid epidemic has caused at least 30 states to pass new legislature to combat it. These new regulations limit the quantity that can be prescribed as well as prescriptions based on the severity of pain symptoms. In a speech last March President Trump called states to action saying, “Defeating this epidemic will require the commitment of every state, local, and federal agency. Failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis.”
Further regulation of opioids is most certainly a good thing. What is not a good thing is how they create hard and fast rules that must be enforced across the board. This causes immense hardship for those dependent on pain medication and new legislation has yet to strike a healthy balance. There is a call for more advisory boards made up of medical professionals who understand the problem and less politicians who rally around the popularity of harsher regulations.
With the new limitations of opioids being prescribed to patients with chronic pain many turn to illegal drugs for relief. The effects of opioid pain medication are closely related to that of heroin and fentanyl, two very addictive and deadly drugs. This is the root cause of the increased amount of overdoses plaguing the country. The DEA recently reported that most opioid overdose deaths involved illicit drugs, not prescribed ones. In 2018 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that of the 477 opioid-related deaths, 90% (or 423) tested positive for fentanyl – a telltale sign of illegal drug use.
The limitation of prescription medication to chronic pain sufferers is not the only problem. Many pain patients report that there is simply no alternative offered to alleviate their pain. Many doctors criticize the 2016 CDC regulations for not offering any suggestions for alternative pain therapy. One such patient, whose pain medication was severely limited, was told he had to wait 6 months before he could be admitted to a pain clinic. He told his wife that his options were live with the pain, buy illegal drugs, or suicide. Sadly, he chose the third option.
Former U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions said of fatal overdoses and opioid-related suicides, “This is the greatest health hazard we’ve ever had…People don’t know how powerful these addictions are. So people get into a situation where they can’t keep taking drugs, and some of them might conclude they can’t live without them.”
The opioid crisis in America continues to be a complicated and destructive force in the country. Regulations that seek to help stop opioid abuse can actually worsen it by forcing chronic pain sufferers to find relief through the use of illegal drugs. Government legislation is trying to solve this crisis, but many studies show a need for:
- More doctor involvement in creating government regulations
- Easier access for chronic pain sufferers to alternative pain therapies and pain clinics
- Less “across-the-board” laws that lump all opioid patients into one group
If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction or dependence, Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help. If you need advice on next steps call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.