Despite numerous law changes and restrictions on prescribing, the number of people dying from opioid-related drug overdoses continues to increase. Today, and every day after this one, 130 Americans on average will die from taking an opioid.
But can anything more be done about reversing these shocking statistics? Yes, it could, but will it?
Current policies tend to lay the blame for widespread opioid addiction on overprescribing and inappropriate prescribing. While this is a factor, it is not the only element fuelling this crisis. Scratch a little deeper and more inherent issues become obvious.
Perhaps the biggest influencer is our health system which incentivizes a quick and standardized approach to all patients, despite the varying complexities of their physical and mental health needs. So far, measures that have tried to curb the crisis have been equally simplistic and somewhat aggressive in their approach. For example, adopting the stance of a “War on Drugs” rather than recognizing the role opioids play as a refuge from physical and psychological trauma, social disadvantages, isolation, hopelessness, and despair.
One step in the right direction has been with the signing of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act in October 2018. Although lacking in some areas, many of its provisions will be beneficial for people with addiction disorders, including increased access to evidence-based treatment, better care for pregnant women and children, and improved strategies for pain management.
We have the tools and the knowledge to mount an effective, fair and impartial campaign to reverse the current avalanche of opioid-related suffering and death. But nothing will change unless we acknowledge that the root causes are social and structural and intertwined with genetic, behavioral, and individual factors.
For more about opioid dependence, see here.