Opioid Use Disorder in America

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opioid use disorderAfter two decades of crisis regarding opioid use in America, it is refreshing to report that our nation has made some headway. We are not out of the woods yet, but a concentrated effort to reduce prescription opioid misuse and opioid use disorder has paid off.

Last month, the DEA’s National Take Back Day collected 937,443 pounds of unused or unwanted prescription drugs. A large number of the safely disposed of pharmaceuticals were narcotics and other types of medicine with the potential for abuse. The campaign to collect medication helps reduce diversion and nonmedical drug use.

Many people are introduced to prescription drugs via the home medicine cabinet. A not statistically insignificant number of individuals have no problem sharing their medicine with friends and family. Safely disposing of one’s prescription drugs can prevent initiation and overdose.

On the prescription opioid front, more doctors are adhering to prescribing guidelines. Primary care physicians are instructed to write prescriptions for opioids only as a last resort. Those doctors who do dole out medicine with potential for abuse are required to exercise the utmost discretion. The days of endless refills and high doses of drugs like oxycodone, for all things pain, seem to be behind us.

Still, we must remember, just because fewer prescriptions are written it does not mean fewer people experience opioid use disorders. Today, most people using heroin were introduced to opioids by doctors, or from someone who was prescribed opioid painkillers. Illicit prescription opioids are expensive and more challenging to acquire; heroin is cheap and available in abundance, conversely.

The effort of expanding access to addiction treatment and encouraging people to seek help must continue. Millions of Americans are struggling with untreated opioid use disorder, even though evidence-based therapies exist.

Reining In Opioid Use Disorder

Last year, the number of opioid prescriptions fell dramatically, according to Bloomberg. A new report from IQVIA Holdings Inc. shows a 17 percent reduction from the previous year. Moreover, painkiller prescriptions have fallen by 43 percent since 2011.

As we mentioned above, the decrease is mostly the result of doctors adhering to state and federal prescribing guidelines. Unfortunately, the uplifting news is hardly a cause for celebration. The IQVIA report shows that doctors prescribed enough opioids to give every adult in the U.S. 34 pills last year. What’s more, heroin and synthetic opioid (i.e., fentanyl) use continue to be a significant problem.

Determining how many men and women are living with an opioid use disorder is not simple. Scores of people living with opioid addiction are not apt to disclose their struggle with experts and medical professionals. The federal government estimates hold that between two to three million individuals meet the criteria for substance use disorder involving opioids.

The global management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. reveals a far more startling picture of opioid addiction in America. After combing through Medicaid beneficiary data, the company believes the actual opioid use disorder figure is closer to six million. Medicaid analytics suggest that 82 percent of opioid use disorder cases remain undiagnosed.

Being able to deduce the exact number of opioid use disorder cases pales in importance to the need for channeling more of those affected toward recovery resources. Prevention is vital, as is having doctors who can screen for use disorders and refer patients to addiction treatment services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 130 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses each day. Detox and evidence-based treatment break the cycle of addiction and teach people how to lead a life in recovery.

Prescription Drug and Heroin Addiction Treatment in Boulder, CO

If you or a loved one are struggling with an opioid use disorder, NorthStar Transitions is here to help. Our commitment to clinical excellence and the use of evidence-based therapeutic modalities ensures that clients receive the highest quality of care. The goal is long-term recovery!

Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services. 303-558-6400