What are Opioids and What is the Crisis?
“Opioids” is a term for one of, if not, the most commonly prescribed pain drugs. They include everything from heroin and fentanyl to prescription pills like oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and morphine. More than 115 people in America die every day due to accidental misuse or abuse of these drugs--that’s one person every 12 minutes--and “the opioid epidemic” is the term used to describe this health crisis.
How did this happen?
In the 1990s, there was a massive marketing blitz from pharmaceutical companies for their new opioid pills, some asserting that their brand was not addictive, such as OxyContin®. These drugs are chemically similar to heroin, one of the most addictive substances on earth.
Meanwhile, illegal drugs flooded in--like heroin and illicitly-produced fentanyl--which people turned to once their prescriptions ran out, or they craved something stronger, or they needed something less expensive than prescription opioids. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports nearly 80% of heroin users started with prescription opioids. And during that 1999-2016 time frame, overdose deaths from heroin increased 7 times. And deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased almost 21 times.
It’s Huge and Must be Solved.
Not only is the productivity of our nation is affected, and the raging cost to Americans in healthcare to attend to the victims, but if not handled, the Pharmaceutical Industry could be in more control of our people than the Government. The 2016 National Study on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 28.6 million Americans age 12 and over used illicit drugs during the month prior to the study. That means roughly 1 in 10 people struggle with some level of substance use, including addiction to prescription drugs. We could become a nation of easily manipulated, drug riddled citizens if the escalation rate of usage and addiction is not contained.
Whoever Solves it is a National Hero
This much heated debate has reached the steps of Washington, and both political parties are getting involved in coming up with a solution. There are more than 70 bills already in Congress, and there will be more. With this monumental flood or proposed legislature, surely some will hit the bulls-eye, and we can get the crisis under control. There are many facets to consider, as this problem will involve control of the drugs, treatment of the victims, limitation on production and ease of access, as well as education programs, hospitalization and healthcare of addicts during and after treatment, and much more. It will be costly, but mending the crumbling societal fabric, even a little bit is well worth it.
The Good News
The Mid-Term elections this November have every candidate talking on this issue, whether for or against, but the important thing is that it IS being spoken about. The volume of legislation reflects the desire of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to show that they can take action on this flaring healthcare crisis that is touching millions of Americans across the country and in every social class. Congress has been on fire generating these bills.
Every member of congress wants his or her name as sponsor of a bill that may resolve the problem, and then there are the promotional promises generated to find a cure by candidates running in the election. We finally have positive energy directed toward a solution. It is likely that the plethora of bills will be consolidated in one or just a few bills, as the proposed legislation is quite varied, and hopefully will give birth to a workable solution.
What are some of the bills?
A few highlights from the 58 bills lawmakers passed include new funding for treatment and more payment options for addicts. Another bill aims to establish new recovery centers and treatment programs. Congress also directed the National Institutes of Health to develop new nonaddictive painkillers to give people more alternatives to prescribed opiates.
Minnesota republican Erik Paulsen also authored a bill that gives seniors more education on the many opiate and non-opiate painkiller options that are available to them. Paulsen also went on the house floor late last week to support another bill that gives the U.S. Postal Service more power to prevent illegal drugs from being smuggled in through international mail. Bottom of Form
“While private carriers have to submit electronic data for any of their packages that come into the United States, the postal service has been exempt,” Paulsen explains. “We have a loophole that is being exploited by smugglers.”
One bill would put a patient’s addiction history on their medical records. The privacy issue came up, but the authors of the bill say it will prevent relapses by giving doctors more information about their patient’s history. Truth Magazine.
You can count on American ingenuity to come to the rescue. We have reached our necessity level, and when that point is reached, the human has been known to pull off amazing feats. We are there, and when you add the element of political reward for sponsoring a clever bit of legislation that creates a viable solution, you have motivation to get the job done.
These bills and the others still have to be approved by the senate and President Trump. Senators are currently working on a similar set of bills in various committees.
There is Hope
While unable to cover the entirety of the legislation and the efforts of public and private programs to handle the problem, this issue is taking a deeper and far more reaching toll on our nation than most people are willing to admit. It will take years and perhaps billions of dollars, but it is necessary. We have to take some responsibility as a public for we should have recognized it as soon as it reared it’s ugly head and squashed it then. Now it is out of control. There is hope that one of these programs before Congress will take hold and slowly but surely begin to usher in the change we so desperately need.