Scope of the Opioid Epidemic
Opioid abuse is now at an all-time high in the United States. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an overdose of this highly addictive substance, from drugs including painkillers such as morphine, methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Four categories of opioids includes natural and semi-synthetic, heroin, methadone, and synthetic. Natural and semi-synthetic opioids include the painkillers mentioned above while heroin is an illegally made opioid synthesized from morphine. Methadone is a synthetic opioid and even as its own category, synthetic opioids are drugs like tramadol and fentanyl.
With the chemicals contained within, opioids are often used as medicines as they relax the body and provide pain relief. They are the choice over other drugs as they are used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain, usually after a surgery, intense injury, or major health condition. They are often used as medicines because the chemicals contained in them relax the body and relieve the pain. When entered into the body, the opioids bind and activate cell receptors. When attached to these receptors, pain signals that are typically sent from the brain to the body are blocked, as large amounts of dopamine are released throughout the body. This experience creates an addictive “high” that makes the user chase and repeat the experience. According to the CDC website, 192 drug overdose deaths occur daily. Out of the four categories mentioned above, synthetic opioids, other than methadone, are the current main cause of overdose deaths. A sample of states whose drug overdose death rates have increased rapidly over the years include California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
History of the Opioid Epidemic
Prior to the 1800s, health care providers regarded pain as a normative occurrence, a consequence of aging (Jones et al., 2018). Regulations fell short regarding opioids and as a result, prescriptions were written for widespread ailments from diarrhea to toothaches. A hundred years later, the Harrison Narcotic Control Act of 1914 was passed as a result of opioid abuse and dependence. This prompted both physicians and patients to take heed concerning this addictive drug. Recognition of how addictive this drug was produced many to fear it for decades. A world-wide “opiophobia” was even referenced in literature during the 1980s and 1990s.
The United States’ greatest involvement into this opioid epidemic manifestation started in the 1990s. There are three distinct waves that began in 1990, 2010, and the most recent being 2013 (CDC, 2018). In 1990, the first wave began after a huge increase of prescription of opioids. The second wave began in 2010, with rapid increases in overdose deaths involving heroin. The third wave began in 2013, this time around having contributing factors of overdoses resulting from synthetic opioids. NIDA 2019 states the deaths involving illicitly-manufactured fentanyl (IMF) can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine. In 2016, President Barrack Obama proclaimed the epidemic of opioid abuse and misuse in the United States. He described it as a disease that touched very many communities in the country, both big and small and urban and rural areas. The epidemic was substantially caused by low patenting standards for many pharmaceutical companies that led to the aggressive marketing of opioids (Sarpatwari, Sinha & Kesselheim 2017). There were false claims that were brought forward about the effectiveness and safety of the drugs, which led to escalating opioid misuse and overuse, an act that has resulted in dire consequences among the public.
Contributors to Opioid epidemic
Opioids bring a feeling of self-relief and pleasure to an individual. Meaning even when correctly prescribed to a patient who is in need of the medication. They can get addicted. It gives a person the compulsive urge to use it over and again so as to have the same feeling of pain relief. Besides, some are given the medication for healthcare while others obtain it for personal use in their life. It is illegal abuse and the government should be on the case to prevent its misuse except to patients with the recommendation of the doctor because addiction leads to dependence of the drug that in turn renders a person unproductive with high health risks. Beginning from the free trade that promotes economic venture to the nation. It promotes the shipping of illegal drugs to the country’s borders. Instead of people going to hospitals or deal with their personal issues head on, the use of the relaxer drug becomes the run to and in turn psychologists lack the patients to treat.
It drugs the economy to its downfall and in the long run due to increased dosage because of the need to feel the “high” one could die. It is drastic that the most exposed to the use of opioids are students. Besides, everyone is after beating the economic times and people sell it to anyone who can pay. Including the health insurance that is taken by American citizens to cover the cost of any medical care. Since the opioids were being prescribed in both public and private hospitals, these health insurance plans were used to cover pain medication instead of pain management. For this reason, health insurance is to blame as much as other factors due to the epidemic of opioids in the United States (DeWeerdt 2019). Patients, too, are to blame because they allowed themselves to find an alibi in opioids whenever they experienced pain. They no longer took opioids for pain medication instead of pain management.
Opioid Addiction as a Social Problem
Addiction to a drug makes a person have withdrawal effect from it such s anxiety, diarrhea and muscle cramping. A person will not be fully functional with these at play. The epidemic has been disastrous for more than a decade in the United States as it has caused deaths to many people due to addiction. This issue has become a problem between 1999 and 2015, with a notable rise in opioid misuse between 2010 and 2015. Based on the social constructionist approach, the question of who defined the issue as a problem is of great importance. Public health officials are responsible in observing the overdose trends and their rise (Linden et al. 2018) Politicians, on the other hand, cannot know such a thing by themselves. The medical health practitioners come in to inform and help them define it as a social problem because many families get broken because of drug use.
In many cases, activist groups work hard to ensure the public views their problem as a social problem, which sometimes is not successful because there are corrupt people in the law who trade in the sale of the drugs for money. It is a man eat man society where nobody cares about the resulting effect but think of the now with their stomachs full. Nobody is to blame as the ones who buy them have problems too but chose to handle them the easy way by not really solving but to ease the stress. people should look at constructive ways for a productive future because once a person is addicted, even when they get a good paying job in the long-run, the dependence that comes with the drug will be a big budget to maintain. Drugs cause a person to lose their financial aid quick. It became a realization when people realized that some bread winners do not fully support their family in compensation of drug use. The issue has seemed to be just like a regular issue until the effects of opioid skyrocketed between 2010 and 2015. In 2016, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation stating that opioid abuse had become an epidemic.
The people who should most be associated with the problem are the physicians who prescribe the medicine and also the manufacturers of the opioids. Opioids affect the health of people on how they are prescribed (Phillips, Ford, & Bonnie 2017). Additionally, the companies that produce opioids are also very much associated as they engaged in illegal marketing of the medicine (Sarpatwari, Sinha & Kesselheim 2017). As much are they are to blame, the patients who use the drugs need to seek help and support from family in prevention to be addicted or be dependent on it as it causes harm to all individuals. Nobody wants to lose a person they love and when a person is sick people should be around the patients to help with the medications in following the correct prescription to health. It is majorly used by patients who are suffering from chronic diseases like cancer that prove to be painful. It changes the brain chemistry of a patient because it alters the functioning by filling the body with pain relieving chemicals.
Pregnant mothers also expose their children because when a mother uses drugs like tobacco. A child forming in her womb might be born early as a result or have some physical difficulties when growing up due to the nicotine that one is exposed to at birth. The use of the drugs may result in underweight babies that might die during birth due to weak immune system. People should stay healthy as families are affected unless one has no relations to extend their problems as dealing with economic times should be the main focus by being productive to handle the responsibilities at hand. Scholars and drug policy reformers have been quiet as the racial inequality associated with drug policy has been repeated once and again (Tiger 2017). White opiates are treated as victims compared to other races that are treated as criminals. People of other races other than the whites are even treated in a manner that makes them look like criminals. White opiates have also led to the police calming down when it comes to dealing with the issue. Instead, the non-white and the poor opiates get punished.
Racism continues and people are unemployed in the streets trying to get by in the economic hardships. Other races who seem to have lesser opportunities have the difficulty to deal with personal problems together with work stress in meeting deadlines. Using the drugs becomes the go to in thinking of ways to provide for themselves and trying to have good time as every time they are hustling for a meal. Others opt to sale the drug while some remain in addiction giving up on life and deciding to steal for drug money. It leads to shooting and people being scared to attend their duties during night time because of the fear to meeting an addict who needs the money but fails to work hard in earning. It does not matter the race but what affects people in their lives to make them use the drugs.
Solutions to Opioid Addiction
Solutions to opioid addiction can be very costly but helpful in the long run. In the federal and state levels, the links between physicians/hospital reimbursement and treating pain and elimination of the subconscious prescription of opioids aimed at financial gain were changed since January 2018. This was done by removal of three questions by the CMS from the HCAHPS survey related patient pain control (Gluck, Hall & Curfman 2018). Patients would come in anf fill in the wrong details with their aim in mind. Some can even fake the symptoms so as to receive the drug in using it personally without correct prescription or selling the drugs for money. The government stays on the lookout for people who use the free trade as a way of shipment in increasing the security systems check at the borders to make sure the goods that are to be traded are taxed for because in most drug money is tax free.
People are so into fulfilling their dreams that getting fast money becomes the option available to the youth and adults with greed for money. By increasing security like trained dogs to sniff every product underway. It discourages some because the penalty to illegal trade could result in harsh regretful consequences like facing a long jail term that prevents a person from being in contact with their loved ones. The punishment makes a person feel like their life will be wasted when in jail. A person would opt to be a responsible citizen in avoiding the trade of illegal substances to invest in something legal and worth the risk taken.
The proposed solutions are aimed at ensuring overprescribing stops in hospitals and the circulation stops in the nation by inspecting everything that crosses the country’s borders. The initiatives that have been taken to solve the addiction of opioids and, if successful, physicians will not be necessarily be overprescribing while treating postoperative pain. With this development, it will be hard for patients to always depend on opioids whenever they are in pain, and this crisis will be well mitigated (Sarin et al. 2016). Additionally, there should be awareness to pregnant mothers about using drugs and how it can affect a person’s growth in the end. Adults should remain responsible in protecting their children from the harsh world that surrounds everyone. Showing and showering a child with the love needed will not make the child feel unloved to use other drugs in search of solace by being “high” all the time. It leads to dependency and low performance of oneself. People are born to live, being involved in opioids is a fast ticket to wasting the life everyone has for themselves.
With any hope for growth in healthier and productive population prevention strategies remain necessary because as much as there is restriction to supply, there is still access to the drug. According to PDH Therapy, social workers can play a role in prevention strategies. This is through understanding the opioid crisis in order to figure out how to cope or confront the opioid addiction issues. The social workers will be vital in educating the communities on prevention strategies and the risk of abusing it. Social workers will be able to assist families cope with the issue of addiction, especially for children (Bao et al., 2016). With their knowledge in the field, they can also be of great help in offering treatment for opioid addiction. Social workers’ abilities to identify and seek treatment for the most vulnerable opioid users can change a person’s life’s trajectory. The social workers are most suited for this work because they can determine the most suitable treatment options and provide suitable help and resources for users, families, and communities.