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    Exploring the Opioid Epidemic in the United States

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    Introduction

    The essentials of epidemiology can be used to discuss the opioid epidemic or crisis, as we may know it, which has increased over the years. Opioids were once the basis for treating those with chronic debilitating pain, but have become known as an epidemic and leading cause of death due to overdose. According to Arnstein and Zimmer (2018) they stated that an estimated 23 million Americans endure high-impact chronic pain that substantially restricts their ability to participate in work, social interactions, and self-care activities. While there are many questions regarding the opioid epidemic I will discuss 3 points I feel relate to the epidemic, which are: the needs that opioids satisfy, the overall problem of the epidemic and how it has heightened over the years, and lastly should we discontinue selling opioids? I will express my viewpoints on why we must get a hold on the opioid epidemic.

    According to dictionary.com, an opioid (noun) is defined as any group of substances that resemble morphine in their physiological or pharmacological effects, esp in their pain relieving properties. “The ongoing opioid crisis lies at the intersection of two public health challenges: reducing the burden of suffering from pain and containing the rising toll of the harms that can arise from the use of opioid medications (Bonnie, Ford & Phillips, 2017)”. When I think about opioids, and the pain relieving effects of this drug, I think about my father. My father has suffered with chronic back and neck pain for years, after having back surgery in 1991 due to a work related injury. I would tell him at times to just go to the doctor, and ask them to prescribe you a medication for the pain. Of, course we know that the medication would be of an opiate form, due to his chronic pain. He stated to me that due to his current job, he could not take the medication he would need; due to the effect it would have on his body while working. As time went on he eventually began taking a prescribed opiate, and became very dependent on this medication.

    The Needs That Opioids Satisfy

    “The dual crises of escalating rates of chronic pain and drug abuse that health care providers face needs to be addressed through policies that reflect sound clinical judgment and experience and are aligned with the best available evidence to promote the highest possible quality of care Arnstein and Zimmer (2018)”. This point takes me back to the point about my father. Being an individual with chronic pain, and needing a medication to help “satisfy” the pain. Physicians see many patients on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and they at times have an encounter with patients who fall in the category of having chronic pain, and may have a history of drug abuse. Physicians have to be mindful of the side effects, and keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to certain medications. The statement made of above mentions that there are needs that need to be addressed according to policies, as well as using knowledge from experience and clinical judgment, prior to prescribing medication. This all plays a vital role in the quality of care for patients.

    The many people who suffer from chronic pain, such as arthritis, post surgery pain, and even those who are in an advanced stage of cancer, look to physicians to help satisfy their needs. According to the Opioids and Chronic Pain article, the article stated, morphine and similar drugs have been used to treat chronic pain not caused by cancer. For many people, they have been remarkably helpful; for others, it either hasn’t worked or has created problems over time. Aschengrau and Seage (2014) state that epidemiologists study the distribution and determinants of disease frequency in human population in order to control health problems. What physicians want to do is to ensure that their patients are being treated and cared for.

    The Overall Problem of the Epidemic

    When it comes to the overall problem of the epidemic, you may begin to think about how often drugs are being misused. According to hhs.gov, the website states that devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic include increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns experiencing withdrawal syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. It saddens me to know that children are being affected due to the epidemic, and have to experience withdrawal syndrome. No child should ever have to go through withdrawal, due to an overdose of medication. Should we discontinue selling opioids?

    Summary

    ‘Number one … we should be prescribing way less than we often give out, and we should have the research that shows what that need really is,’ said Dr. Gawande. ‘Second, we have to teach people that the goal is not zero pain — the goal is that you have enough pain that there will be an ache but you can do the things you want to do. You can sleep, you can eat, you can go shopping. Third, tell people these are addictive and weighing that against your choices. Fourth, teach them how to dispose of these things. The biggest thing is that the leftovers get stolen and then go on the black market that way (Zimmerman, 2017)”.

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    Exploring the Opioid Epidemic in the United States. (2021, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/exploring-the-opioid-epidemic-in-the-united-states-175093/

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