The increase in death toll due to a drug overdose is a grave concern. The incidents of drug overdose deaths every year have surpassed other fatal causes like car crashes, violence, HIV/AIDS, etc. in the United States. One of the major contributors to the high number of drug overdose deaths is opioids. Statistically, over 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription medication, presenting a scary and grim picture of the overall situation.
Prescription drugs are being heavily sold illegally and misused for nonmedical purposes. Rather than encouraging the overprescription of medications, one of the best ways to control the current opioid crisis is through the vigilant prescription of painkillers and other opioids. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the deaths due to overdose of prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999. Furthermore, over 46 people died every day from overdoses of prescription opioids in 2016. The most commonly prescribed opioids associated with overdose deaths are methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone.
It is quite shocking to note that drug overdose deaths increased by 11.4 percent from 2014 to 2015, with a massive increase by 15.6 percent in opioid death rate in the same period. This significant increase in death rates were the result of synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl and heroin. One must pay attention to the fact that the increase in the opioid subcategories has occurred across all demographics and regions in the U.S.
Unique case of Virginia
Despite taking stringent measures against opioid crisis, the problem remains across several states like Virginia. In 2016, the total number of people succumbing to the overdoses of prescription opioids in the state of Virginia was quite high, irrespective of the lesser prescription of painkillers by clinicians and physicians. In fact, the state policymakers have forecasted a further increase in overdose deaths by 10 percent from July 2017 to Jun. 2018. Though there has been a reduction in the rate of growth, the number of fatalities still remains high.
Around 803 locals died due to the consumption of fentanyl and heroin and somewhere about 465 died due to prescription painkillers. In response to this epidemic, Virginia have made many relevant policy changes, making it difficult to get the large supplies of narcotics. Other regulations related to the dosage, amount and prescription period of opioids have also been implemented by the Virginia Board of Medicine.
Additionally, it has made it mandatory that all health professionals and clinicians to undergo education on opioids before renewing their practicing license. Another preventive measure included the wide availability of naloxone, an antidote to overdose. The policymakers also implemented guidelines pertaining to the prescription of drugs. In case of the patients with acute pain like kidney stones, prescriptions are restricted to a seven-day supply of short-acting opioids. It was limited to a 14-day supply in case of surgical patients. Moreover, clinicians are required to check patient’s prescription history.
In recent times, the prescription of pain relievers was reduced significantly by around 45 percent in 2017. Moreover, the prescription of opioids of higher strengths was decreased immensely. As a result, the number of emergency room (ER) visits due to overdose has reduced by around 10 percent, which was still rising last year.
Stringent steps can decrease opioid crisis
Like Virginia, other states can also develop and promote safe prescription guidelines to control opioid crisis. The prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) help to identify patients who are using prescription painkillers for nonmedical purposes. The need of the hour is that health care providers and clinicians are made aware of the correct use of prescription drugs. Doctors must educate their patients to safely use, store and dispose medicines to prevent the overdose of drugs. These measures will help to reduce deaths due to the overdose of prescription drugs.
If you or your loved one is suffering from the addiction to substances, contact the Prescription Drug Addiction Help to seek information related to prescription drug addiction treatment. You can chat online with our prescription drug rehab specialists or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-623-3847 for immediate assistance.