More people die because of addiction to opioids in Massachusetts than in road accidents or gun violence, highlighted a recent report on Bostonglobe.com. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been an unprecedented rise in opioid overdose related casualties in the United States, with approximately 47,000 deaths in 2014 attributed to opioid pain relievers and heroin.
Prompted by approximately 1,200 unintentional opioid overdose deaths that occurred in Massachusetts in 2014, the Massachusetts Senate on October 2, 2015 passed a legislation to address the state’s substance abuse crisis. The comprehensive bill brought about to make treatment more accessible to the people of the state lists down important initiatives to fight the opioid crisis by focusing on safe prescription practices, alternative medicines for treatment of pain and screening process of students to determine those at risk of addiction.
Narcotic pain medication has an important role in the health care system as it provides an effective relief to millions of Americans reeling under chronic pain. But over prescription of these opioids has resulted into them falling into wrong hands giving way to its abuse by teenagers and young adults in the country.
The harrowing number of deaths caused due to accidental overdose of opioids over the past two decades in the U.S. prompted President Barack Obama to refer to opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic in his final State of the Union address on January 12, “I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like … helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.” Prior to this, in October 2015, he had issued a memorandum to federal departments and agencies to provide the necessary training to federal health care officials regarding opioid prescriptions and to improve access to treatments related to opioid overdoses.
AGs’ support to CDC’s 2016 Draft Guideline
Meanwhile, the attorneys general of various states, in their letters of support to the proposed CDC guidelines, said, “As attorneys general whose states and residents have been affected by the epidemic of opioid abuse, addiction, diversion, overdose, and death, we write to urge the speedy adoption of the CDC’s Proposed 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.”
The CDC’s 2016 Draft Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain underscores 12 recommendations to various health care providers in the states regarding determination of opioid use treatment for pain, selecting the kind of and dosage of opioid to be prescribed and simultaneously addressing the peril of addiction to opioids.
Urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement the proposed guidelines by the CDC, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in a letter to the FDA wrote, “The increase in overdose deaths has made the efforts to improve informed prescribing both a law enforcement and public safety issue. Unfortunately, many prescribers, particularly primary care and family physicians, note they can lack clear and practical guidance in deciding when and how to prescribe opioids. Some are afraid to prescribe opioids at all; for fear that they will jeopardize their patients – or even their licenses. Others provide their patients with opioids when alternative treatments may serve as a more effective long term method of care.”
The necessary tradeoff
The number of deaths due to opioid overdose continues to rise in America. The country quickly needs to strike a balance (by way of implementing the necessary laws and increasing access to medical care) between the potential benefits and harms caused by use of opioids.
If you or your loved one had been taking opioids as a necessary relief for pain and has got addicted to it, you may approach the Prescription Drug Addiction Help. Call our 24/7 helpline at 866-623-3847 or chat online with an expert for necessary professional advice. Our team of ardent medical practitioners will provide the necessary advice.