Opioid Epidemic Solutions
Opioid epidemic solutions are much needed. There is no question that in the United States, the use of opioids has reached epidemic proportions. More than 115 people die each day because they overdosed on an opioid, which could be pain medication or heroin. It is estimated that over 3 million people in the United States (and many researchers believe this number may be low) are addicted to opioids. However, there is hope for people who are addicted to opioids. Some states have come up with solutions for the use of opioids and heroin, which are helping people in their states overcome their addictions and return to a normal life. Addressing the problem is always great but the next step is to seriously consider opioid epidemic solutions.
Many physicians believe that the root of the opioid epidemic is pain, often chronic pain due to an accident or injury. The doctors believe that pain management through other means besides opioids is essential to the epidemic and are trying several different techniques to help their patients manage pain without the use of opioids. Physicians are using non-opioid drugs in different combinations to alleviate the pain of their patients combined with rehabilitation for physical pain, such as back pain or knee pain. While the research into this idea is young, it appears to be having positive effects in many states, where doctors are able to help patients get off habit-forming medication and reduce their pain levels.
Alternative Medicine and Holistic Therapy
Doctors have also been encouraging their patients with chronic pain to find alternative methods for pain relief. Alternative methods for pain relief have included acupuncture, which has been shown to greatly reduce chronic pain; meditation and yoga, which help with flexibility and concentration; chiropractic medicine has been shown to improve mobility and function in patients with chronic pain. These are effective opioid epidemic solutions that are being used today and are showing positive results.
While the use of Suboxone or Methadone have been decried in some circles as the replacement of one drug with another, research over the last 20 years in Europe and the United States has suggested that for some patients who are addicted to opioids, the use of Suboxone has helped to manage their pain and alleviate their need for opioids. In some states, such as Virginia, the state has seen a decrease in overdoses and dependency on opioid medications when patients are given Suboxone and therapy to help with pain management.
Electrotherapy, especially when used with patients who have chronic back pain, has been proven effective for the relief of pain without opioids. There are many different types of Electrotherapy: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS), electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), Interferential current (IFC), pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF), and galvanic stimulation (GS); all of which use electrical current to reduce the feelings of pain in the nerves.
Drug Prescription Databases
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are databases that monitor the use of opioids in patients through their pharmacies, as one of the most common problems with opioid addiction is “doctor shopping”, when a patient goes from doctor to doctor to get additional opioid medication without the doctor’s knowledge. A national database of pharmacies would allow opioid prescriptions to be tracked, and hopeful patients who are at risk for becoming addicted to opioids can receive the help they need more quickly before their addictions become overwhelming. This is one of the opioid epidemic solutions that has been proven to actually work.
Limit the Number of Opioid Prescriptions
Many states, doctors, emergency rooms and some pharmacies are now limiting the amount of opioids given to patients for pain management. One of the problems with opioid addiction is that a patient could walk into an emergency room, complain of back pain and be given a 30 day supply of opioids. In many areas, current practice has changed: a patient will be given a 7 day supply of pain medication and told that if they are continuing to have pain, they need to contact their general practitioner or a specialist that could aid them more effectively with pain management.
Additional Doctor Education
Research has demonstrated that in many cases, doctors in the community are unaware that their prescribing habits with regard to opioid addiction differ from those of other doctors. Through physician education, doctors are better able to share information about pain management and opioid addiction. In addition, doctors may be able to find those patients who are at-risk for opioid addiction and refer them to a community services network or a public health service for additional assistance with managing chronic pain.
Use of Over the Counter Drugs for Pain Relief
Recent studies have indicated that combinations of over the counter analgesics are just as effective as opioids at relieving some types of pain; especially the combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When given in large enough doses, patients reported an alleviation of pain symptoms. In some cases, the over the counter combination was more effective in pain reduction than opioids.
Community Resource Management
Research done in a county in Virginia found that when community resources are used in conjunction with hospitals and doctors, the overdose rate in the county dropped by 38% in one year. For example, public health agencies, physicians, addiction specialists, pain and alternative medication specialist worked as a team to identify those people in the county who were at risk for possible opioid abuse and got them help and treatment for their pain early, before the patient became addicted. The county found that it is much easier to treat a patient as they are at the beginning of a potential problem than it is for hospitals to treat the patient who is already addicted. The program appears to be working well in Virginia and could be expanded to other areas of the country.
Similar to the Truth campaigns against cigarette smoking the same method could apply to opioids and heroin. These campaigns could be designed to inform the public (mainly young people) about the dangers of opioid use and heroin. Showing real people who’ve struggled with these drugs and the damages that they bring could deter the next generation from falling down the same hole of addiction. Ending addiction in this country is not going to be done over night but if the Truth campaign is working for cigarettes, couldn’t those same principles be applied here?
Promoting Opioid Epidemic Solutions
It is easy to bring up problems, but solutions are always what is most important. What good is recognizing an issue if there is no plans to help. Opioid epidemic solutions are much needed and these are only some. Hopefully future generations will look back at the early 2000s as a dark time, but a time that we certainly found a way to overcome. There is help for anyone who is struggling with opioids and heroin. Opioid epidemic solutions should be a top priority from community leaders, churches, educators and politicians. Rehab can help but there is much more that can be done.