September 11, 2016
America’s addiction to opiate painkillers and heroin has become an epidemic, and has been officially labeled as such by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC). Since the year of 1999, deaths from opioids, (drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, morphine, Suboxone, and methadone just to name a few), have quadrupled, killing over a hundred Americans every single day, according to the CDC. This is quite truthfully the most concerning issue when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction in the United States today.
Unfortunately, and probably the reason why this issue is so underreported, many of these addictions and overdoses started with a doctor’s legal prescription to an unsuspecting individual. To shed some light on this, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has also quadrupled in the same time frame as the death increases from above have. In fact, though the United States only accounts for a mere five percent of the nation’s population, the truth of the matter is that the nation by itself consumes more than seventy-five percent of the entire world’s supply of prescription drugs on an annual basis.
Honestly, chronic pain does indeed affect more than 100 million Americans, but the methodology with which we address chronic pain in the United States is entirely flawed. The number of Americans who are affected by pain is more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined, according to the Institute of Medicine. Granted, our whole definition of pain is relative and has changed over the years, but the fact remains that this is a serious and a concerning issue to say the least. It is no wonder that doctors are prescribing more opioids than they ever have been before, but not only are there other methods of addressing pain, but diagnosing pain can be a daunting task for doctors and they can very often perform a serious misdiagnosis. Here’s what one expert had to say about it:
“It is challenging to determine the true level of the patient’s pain because somebody may say their pain is 8 out of 10. But somebody else could have the exact same level of pain but a different chemical makeup, might say that their pain is only a 5 out of 10. It’s very subjective.”
The Very Real Statistics
At this point there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise in the nation. What a lot of people don’t know though is that there is an opiate epidemic the likes of which the nation has never seen before and it’s happening right now:
• In the year of 2013, there were 169,000 persons aged 12 or older who used heroin for the first time within the past year, which was similar to the estimates in 2002 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2012, but much lower than that of 2015, which pushed 300,000 first time user. Heroin, following in the wake of opiate prescription pills, is definitely growing in interest in the nation.
• The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) tends to report characteristics of admissions and discharges from substance abuse treatment facilities all across the nation in its Treatment Episode Data Set, (TEDS). According to TEDS, there were no less than 1.8 million admissions in the year of 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems and give their data to them. Most treatment admissions in fact, (41.4 percent), involved alcohol abuse too. Heroin and other opiates accounted for the largest percentage of drug-related admissions by far, ranking in at 20.0 percent, followed by marijuana, (17.0 percent).
• The problem with medical drugs is that prescription drugs don’t treat diseases; they merely cover the symptoms up and then make more symptoms of their own. U.S. physicians provide health care yes, but they care for disease, not health. So what you have then is an over-prescription of medications that are basically designed to treat disease instead of prevent it. Because there are so many drugs available for the public to consume, unforeseen adverse drug reactions are all too common in people everywhere, which leads to the highly conservative annual prescription drug death rate of no less than 106,000, which is the accumulation of not only addicts dying, but also of people who are the victims of mis-prescribing of the drugs.
A New Method of Address
In July of this past year, to address the ever-growing opiate addiction issue in this nation, President Barack Obama signed into law what is now known as the, Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This act was put into place to address the opioid crisis, and the program authorizes a full $181 million each year in new funding to fight the epidemic and to try to take it down a notch.
That’s all fine and good, but it still might not be enough. To help combat the issue, one private company is hoping its new technology could help in the efforts. A man by the name of Brian Meshkin founded an Irvine, California-based company known as Proove Biosciences in the year of 2009. The company actually developed a wide portfolio and arrangement of different tests that can all effectively determine someone’s exact, specific, and very detailed pain profile and tolerance to different pain medications. With this data, it can be given to doctors so that they have more information before prescribing medication to such individuals.
This technology is hopefully the first of many, and it is hoped that it will take off and completely revolutionize the way that we look at pain in this nation. Change is needed, because tens of thousands are dying every year from it and hundreds of thousands are becoming addicted to these drugs when they shouldn’t have even been taking them in the first place.