Recently, the opioid crisis made headlines when the President declared it a public health emergency. This epidemic is a major concern, but what does it mean and why is it happening?
Let’s start with the basics. First, what is an opioid? An opioid is a type of drug that includes illegal substances such as heroin and opium. Synthetic opioids are legal and often prescribed to treat severe and chronic pain.
Prescription opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- Morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadin, MS Contend, Ora-Morph, Roxanol)
- Oxycodone (Encode, OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicet)
Opioids disrupt pain signals in the brain which can make these drugs highly addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2015, an estimated 2 million people in the U.S. suffered from prescription opioid drug abuse. That same year, more than 33,000 died from an opioid overdose. This means that nearly 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. It is also reported that opioid prescription sales quadrupled from 1999 to 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there was not any change in the amount of pain in Americans during that time.
Addiction is one of the main reasons why opioids are now being considered a public health emergency. The declaration is supposed to do a few things. One of which is to increase telemedicine services. Telemedicine allows health care professionals to treat opioid addicts from a distance through technology such as mobile apps and video chat. An increase in these services allows those living in remote locations who suffer from opioid addiction to get the help they need more accessibly.
Many believe that the opioid epidemic should be declared a national emergency due to the difference in funds available. Nevertheless, we hope that this public health emergency announcement is a step in the right direction towards putting an end to the opioid crisis.
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