America’s crisis – opioids kill 115 per day

August 16, 2018

Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor

We all know at least one person that is battling drug addiction. Personally I know several, and coupled with mental health issues, it is the single largest problem America faces. Forget about health care, immigration or terrorism, drugs, thanks to opioids, have taken center stage.

Mike Wilcox Editor/Publisher

Mike Wilcox

Not too long ago- opioids, which are typically prescription pain relievers, or sometimes the more potent synthetic brand such as fentanyl, were little known. In the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies began producing the pain relievers and went to great lengths to prove to the FDA and healthcare providers that they were non-addictive. Indeed, to put it bluntly, we were misled. Various varieties of opioids flooded the marketplace, and the rate of patient addiction skyrocketed.

The statistics are staggering. From 1999 to 2016, 620,000 deaths were attributed to opioids. In 2015, 33,000 deaths, or 115 per day were linked to opioid overdoses. One Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70% in one single year- from August 2016 to September 2017.

60 Minutes told us about a small town in Colorado, with a population of 38,000 people, that received 1.6 million orders for pain pills. That adds up to 42 pain pills per resident. One pill mill in an even smaller town in West Virginia was dispensing millions of pills per year. Yet very few of these so-called clinics were flagged by the unscrupulous drug companies that supplied the painkillers.

I could go on and on. Locally the number of people populating our jails because of heroin addiction is astounding. A few years ago heroin wasn’t even a second thought. Now, it is the end result of opioids. 80 percent of heroin addicts report that their first experience with opioids came as pain patients under a doctor’s care. When painkillers no longer provide the relief people seek, they turn to the more potent and highly addictive opioid, heroin, to get their fix. Many of them become seriously ill or even die, because some of the heroin is laced with fentanyl- a synthetic opioid that is one-hundred times more potent than morphine.

Statistics also show that over 25% of the pain patients that receive opioids misuse them in some form or another. That’s a staggering statistic. Some become addicted, but others sell them on the streets. You can go in any small town today and buy a Vicodin or Percocet for upwards to $10. For many it’s almost the same as buying a marijuana baggie.

So that’s the problem. What do we do about it? We all know doctors and clinics have cracked down hard on the issuance of painkillers. You can’t simply call in a prescription any more. That’s certainly a start but much more needs to be done.

To me one of the major problems with any type of addiction is the lack of recovery and treatment centers, or access to them. If you are rich and famous, you have the cash to place yourself in a Betty Ford Clinic, or something similar. However, if your insurance does not cover the cost of the expensive treatment centers, it’s darn near impossible to get in.

And quite frankly, there simply are not enough recovery and treatment centers available to treat patients. We need to encourage entrepreneurs to create more. We need to send those who suffer from addictions to treatment centers, not jail- not for a week but for several months.

Additionally, researchers must step-up their efforts to create alternatives to addictive opioids. Politicians must educate themselves on America’s opioid crisis and offer solutions and alternatives. Debate should be focused less on building a wall and who colluded with who, and more on how are we gonna help the common man lick his opioid addiction.

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