With statistics of prescription opioid abuse on the decline, it may seem that the opioid crisis has finally reached a turning point. However, this is only a small portion of the the opiate crisis. When it comes to opioid dependency based on other measures, the crisis is still imminent.
Heroin addiction is on the rise, with ER admissions of overdosing patients rapidly increasing. As the number of fatalities related to illegal and legal drug overdoses has risen to 64,000 a year, it is obvious that the opiate crisis is very much ongoing.
The Opioid Crisis of Today
With the opiate crisis in its current state, how will things change in the future? The FDA, DEA, And CSC aim to ultimately end the flow of illegal drugs, but that is no small feat. the likes of illicit fentanyl continue to spread through black markets as part of counterfeit heroin, cocaine, pills, and other substances. Fentanyl, though extremely potent, is often shipped in the smallest amounts so that they are undetectable when transported by mail, vehicles, or UPS and FedEx shipments, making it harder than ever to crack down on the dispersion of opiates.
With the rise of the online drug market, gone are the days of street corner dealers. Now, middlemen use the Internet to find customers. Mexico, Canada, and China continue to be the leading countries for opioid distribution. As the use of Internet to facilitate drug deals will only increase in the future, government agencies need to re-evaluate their approach to the supply side of this epidemic.
Prevention and Drug Addiction Treatment
While drug addiction treatment via medication addicted therapy or MAT has existed for years, it is now more important than ever when trying to overcome the opioid crisis. In the book “Dark Paradise“, David Courtwright notes that drug addiction treatment has never truly been used as “a coherent national response to heroin addiction” and this needs to change.
The only real way to put an end to the opioid crisis is to focus less on preventing the spread of opiates and to focus more on provide affordable treatment to those dealing with substance abuse disorders. We have a rough road ahead of us.
With opioid use reaching epidemic rates now, there are already significant efforts underway to solve the problem. As local and federal organizations work together, a year from now will likely bring an increase in efforts to educate the public about the dangers of opioid abuse and addiction, as well as treat any individuals that are already addicted.
Ultimately, these efforts will work to reduce opiate-related mortality rates. Additionally, there are programs that have been put in place to monitor prescription drug use and the physicians that over-prescribe these drugs. This will help put an end to the “doctor shopping” practices of opioid abusers.
Furthermore, first responders now carry naloxene, a medication used to reduce the risk of death by overdose. Also, with the Affordable Care Act, individuals can also be treated for opioid addiction, though the future of this coverage with the new administration is currently unclear.
Shifting the Focus of the Opioid Crisis
To solidify the future of the opioid crisis, communities, medical professionals, and government organizations must work together to address the epidemic with the following methods:
- Improve access to services for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation using medication-assisted treatment:
Individuals facing opioid addiction must be provided the proper tools, support, and programs to begin recovery.
- Promote the distribution of drugs to reverse and treat overdoses:
Overdose-reversing drugs are essential to defusing the opioid crisis. Significantly reducing the amount of opioid-related fatalities is the first step in taking on the crisis.
- Improve research on addiction and pain:
For the opioid crisis to end, there needs to be a better understanding of addiction, focusing on how to treat it and how to prevent it.
- Creating better practices for pain management:
Though the numbers of prescription opioid addiction are falling, doctors must advance their methods for pain management to avoid over-prescribing opioids.
While the statistics of opioid abuse and drug related overdoses are still quite high, as medical professionals, government organizations, and the rest of the country attempt to reduce opioid addiction, the future doesn’t look quite as bleak. Whereas organizations in the past attempted to treat drug abuse by cracking down on the spread of drugs, the future of the opioid crisis requires for the focus to shift to addiction treatment and preventive measures.