Latest Updates on the Opioid Epidemic
We have previously discussed the opioid epidemic in the space and tried to outline the role nurses play in combatting the frightening trends we are seeing in this country. As promised, we have put together the following update on the opioid crisis and the actions being taken across different fronts.
The human impacts of opioid abuse. Current research indicates that more than 12.4 million Americans have misused prescription opioids. And, as if that staggering number isn’t worrisome enough, 2.1 million of those individuals misused opioids for the first time. Also, the 2015 data shows that 33,000 individuals died from an opioid overdose.
The financial impacts of the opioid epidemic. Recently, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report that in 2015, the nationwide opioid crisis contributed to economic losses of $500 billion. This number far exceeds the previous estimate of $78.5 billion in 2013. The new reporting in 2015 factored in economic consequences associated with opioid deaths rather than rely solely on law enforcement aspects and costs of medical care.
Governmental actions on Opioids. Recently, the White House released a presidential memo directing Health and Human Services to declare the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency, a move that will release additional federal grant monies to the states to combat the problem. In addition to releasing the grant funding, the declaration prioritizes the epidemic across all government agencies and facilitates the coordination of resources. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just this week, finalized guidance for the pharmaceutical industry when developing abuse-deterrent opioids. The guidance is meant to reduce the risk of opioid abusers shifting to other more dangerous drugs because of the formulation changes.
Law Enforcement Updates. On November 29, 2017, the United States Justice Department announced several additions to the fight against the opioid crisis. The first initiative announced is a $12 million investment to support state and local law enforcement agencies across the country, with a focused effort on areas where the problem is the worst. Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) restructured their Field Divisions and opened up a new office in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the first changes to DEA structure in more than 20 years. The Justice Department has also introduced new measures allowing federal prosecutors to crack down on traffickers of synthetic fentanyl. By treating synthetics in the same manner as true forms of fentanyl will hopefully help disrupt the massive flow of illegal substances into the United States.
We are interested in your thoughts about the opioid epidemic. How has this alarming crisis impacted your community and workplace? Has your facility taken steps to address the crisis and raise awareness about the epidemic? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below, or visit us on our Facebook page.
I am very worried about my younger sister, who has complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS has been shown to be more painful than cancer and other chronic illnesses. After 6yrs, she finally reached a tolerable level of pain vs pain meds that allowed her to have a few "good days." However, due to the new regulations that limit the dose that the doctors can prescribe, she has had to be weaned down on her dose, leaving her in terrible amounts of pain on a daily basis. She can no longer go to as many family functions. She no longer has those few "good days." There needs to be an advocate for people like her, that are not opioid abusers, but live with an amount of chronic pain on a daily basis that most of us could only imagine in our worst nightmares. CRPS - google it, educate yourself.
What if there were something that controlled pain and didn't kill you? Do you think the FDA would advocate for it? Well, there is and they aren't. Instead, they are trying to make a plant illegal that has not ever killed anyone. All while making a synthetic version of the same thing they are trying to ban. The FDA, the DEA, and the health care systems doesn't care about the people. They care about money. Always have. Always will. If they can't control something, they ban it. If they ban it, they kill the other sellers. If they can't kill, they buy out the competition and impose strict laws and guidelines to ensure they ate the only source you are allowed to use.
I understand that there is an epidemic of abuse but there are some people that suffer from chronic pain. So physician scared to prescribe leave their patients in constant pain, which in turn leads to other issues. Depression becomes prevalent which then drinking begins and so forth. People try to self medicate. This issue needs to come up with a solution for a types of patients.
After a recent lobectomy surgery, I was given a prescription of 5-10 mg oxy q3h. The insurance would not cover the prescription due to the quantity, and I was unable to get anybody on the phone when I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home from the hospital. In addition I was released from the hospital two days early on a Friday afternoon, which saved the insurance company thousands of dollars. If it weren't for a policy the allowed Rite Aid to sell me a prescription of 50 for a cash price, I never would have been able to manage my pain properly. Taking this medication so frequently did cause a slight withdrawal response for 2-3 days following after only taking 5 mg q3 h over a 60-hour period.
1. The insurance companies need to distinguish between chronic and immediate need due to a significant event.
2. I am thankful the Rite Aid Pharmacy has the good sense to provide a needed service due to the failure of rage insurance companies allowing these chronic cases of addiction to go unresolved!