Whether you consider it to be a crisis, epidemic, or a public health emergency as the White House Administration has declared, the misuse and abuse of opioids is indeed wildly out of control.
NPR estimates that, “on average, nearly 150 Americans a week are dying from overdoses.” It can be difficult to understand how people can become dependent so quickly, but what is clear is that when misused, opioids can quickly become addictive and cause dangerous side effects. We hope that this blog will reveal the mechanics of opioids in an easy to understand way and prompt you to think about how you can help address the epidemic.
In short, opioids work by changing how your brain responds to pain and lessens the number of pain signals your body sends to your brain. These prescription medications should only be prescribed for short-term use to treat pain from things like dental procedures, injuries, and surgeries, but they are overprescribed and addiction and abuse are only getting worse.
Frightening Statistics About The Opioid Crisis
Prescription painkillers are the leading cause of drug overdoses in the United States. All 150 deaths that occur every week are preventable through raising knowledge and awareness of the risks and utilizing alternative approaches to treating pain– the latter being a big part of our practice. Opioid addiction is considered a disease and there are many ways to recover.
Aside from overdosing and the effects this drug use has on families in America, the financial cost of the opioid crisis should be more action-inducing than it seems to be. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that the “economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”
The opioid crisis has many widespread and devastating side effects. Addicted women who become pregnant may have babies that are born addicted to drugs and must go through withdrawal as a newborn. The NIDA also estimates that, “every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.”
Thankfully for women addicted to drugs, the Freedom House is a women’s addiction recovery program that is “designed to treat the women’s chemical dependency, to break the cycle of addiction in families, to reunite families broken apart by addiction, and to promote the birth of healthy, drug-free babies.”
How The Opioid Crisis Is Affecting Kentucky
This epidemic isn’t tied to any particular demographic and affects the nation as a whole. The Department of Health and Human Services released a report in December 2017 that showed a drop in life expectancy, which hasn’t happened in back-to-back years, like it did in 2016 and ’17, since the 1960’s. This change could be due to deaths of young people who become addicted and overdose.
In Kentucky, nearly every county is affected by opioids with the highest rates of overdoses being in Louisville, Lexington, and Northern Kentucky. Another tragic side effect of the epidemic is that it is affecting the extent to which addicted parents can care for their children. The percentage of children being removed from their home that cited parental substance use as a contributing factor increased by 13 percent between 2012-2015.
Kentucky has more kids entering into the foster care system than those that are leaving and there are not enough willing families to temporarily take in children to keep up with the crisis. Not only does Kentucky have a higher than average number of children in the foster care system, we also have one of the highest rates of child homelessness in the nation due to the opioid crisis.
Solutions For Pain
Regarding the national fight against opioids, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is researching safe and non-addictive solutions for managing pain. They have also been leading the efforts in Naloxone, which is a medication that has been around since the 1970’s that reverses overdoses and saves lives daily. In 1996, many states began to distribute opioid abuse kits to medically untrained people. Now, Cambridge, Massachusetts is even considering placing lockboxes on street corners to give the public easy access to the drug in case they need to save someone who’s overdosed.
We are also invested in fighting against the opioid crisis by focusing on treating pain in safe and non-addictive ways. Our specialty is treating patients who have been victims of automobile accidents or are suffering from a workers’ comp injury. Depending on the severity of the accidents and injuries, both cases can lead to suffering from chronic pain, too, but there is hope for overcoming pain and gaining back your quality of life before the accident.
We provide a variety of pain management procedures including cervical and lumbar epidurals, various nerve blocks, occipital nerve blocks (for headaches), joint injections, and radiofrequency ablation. You can see all of the treatments we offer and videos of how they are performed here. We want anyone suffering to know that you are not alone and you don’t have to reduce yourself to self-medication– a choice that can be fatal! We also want you to know there are treatments to consider long before discussing more invasive procedures such as surgery.
Hope and Compassion for Sufferers!
Our practice is built on care and compassion for people dealing with pain. So we also have compassion on those who have become caught in a cycle of drug abuse. No one chooses to become addicted to drugs. They might choose to misuse or abuse drugs a few times before they become dependent and literally cannot stop. While they may be addicted to the high, no one readily asks for all the losses that come with drug addiction like liver and brain damage as well as potential loss of close relationships and jobs. We encourage you to show compassion to those you may know who are addicted to opioids and point them in the direction of some of the resources we have shined a light on. There is hope for beating addiction to opioids and stopping this national epidemic. How will you help?