There is a frightening reality in the world of modern medicine patients

Table of Contents

There is a frightening reality in the world of modern medicine; patients are dying in unprecedented numbers from practices that prescribe medicine to treat pain. Opioid painkillers are meant to provide pain relief, but there is now an excess amount of deaths because opioids have been increasingly marketed and inappropriately prescribed to patients. Unfortunately, this is happening worldwide and opioids are commonly misused and abused globally. Opioid abuse has become progressively more common by both adults and teens. There are thousands of reports daily about overdoses on the painkiller medicine. Opioid abuse is a major epidemic and a policy should be implemented regarding the abuse and addiction of opioids. There are many cause and effects about the use of opioids; however, one of the main reasons contributing to the epidemic is that pharmaceutical companies started prescribing opioid pain relievers at greater rates, resulting in a widespread diversion and misuse of the medication. As Fraser mentions, “With more than 115 overdose deaths a day from prescription and illicit opioid misuse, public health leaders have called the opioid crisis one of the most urgent public health challenges of our time” (2019). Studies have shown that over 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids and 2.1 million Americans had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin in 2016. A total of 63,000 overdose deaths happened in 2016, which represents a 21% increase to the year prior. As Abrams mentions, “This is the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, reaching a total greater than any peak number of annual deaths caused by car crashes, HIV, or guns throughout history. Opioids are responsible for 66 percent of those overdose deaths, killing more Americans annually than breast cancer” (2018).With this crisis happening daily, the people abusing opioids can experience symptoms and the main symptom is tolerance, or the need to increase the dose in order to achieve the same effect. As McCoy states, “Another symptom is increased amounts of time spent drug-seeking. Other symptoms include the interference of drug or drug-seeking behavior with social, occupational, or school functioning; the continued use of drugs despite social, legal, occupational, or interpersonal consequences stemming from drug use; desire or efforts made to decrease or stop drug use without success; and withdrawal, the adverse symptoms that occur when the drug is not taken” (2019). When opioid drugs are used repeatedly, the level of natural endorphins in the body is diminished and the brain is likely to become dependent on the drug which leads to opioid addiction. There are also many symptoms of withdrawal, such as aches, fever, sweating, chills, nausea, diarrhea, panic, and craving the drug. There are also many risk factors with using opioids, most people who develop an opioid addiction begin by overusing or misusing a prescription opioid medication, whether it is intentionally or unintentionally, subsequently developing a prescription opioid use disorder. Many patients then begin finding and using illegal opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl. This usually happens when prescription opioids become too difficult or costly to reliably attain. How does addiction happen? Addiction amounts to more than abuse. When a drug acts on the central nervous system it creates a chemical imbalance and our bodies naturally try to restore equilibrium. However, if we become accustomed to the foreign substance, a new normal develops. The person becomes tolerant and then physically dependent. Once the body operates normally only in the presence of the addictive substance, sudden drug reduction or withdrawal can cause severe illness or even death. Risk of addiction depends on a variety of factors: type of drug and the length of time used, dosage amount, route of administration, underlying medical conditions, family history, and other biological and environmental factors. Addiction varies from person to person but, nonetheless, addiction should never be taken lightly. Treatment and therapy can be provided to anyone who suffers from opioid addiction. As McCoy mentions, “In rehab programs, people with opioid abuse stay in a controlled environment for anywhere from a few days to several months. The length of stay is determined not by medical necessity or patient desire but by insurance companies” (2019). A problem with people who get incarcerated for drug possession and also misuse opioids often don’t get treatment because they are in jail. Due to inmates not getting treatment and getting released they often go back to using the drug and use the same amount they used before they went to jail, resulting in overdose because the person will use the same amount or an even higher amount. This is an often occurrence and overdosing happens daily, it is an extremely important matter and something must be done to help or prevent opioid addiction and abuse. Opioid abuse and misuse started back in the 1990’s. As Terrell mentioned, “It began in the late 1990s, when doctors and health care providers started facing pressure to treat chronic pain more aggressively,” declared The Hill in March. The Hill also blamed pharmaceutical companies for “marketing these drugs to medical providers as not addictive or harmful” (2018). Since 1990, opioid abuse has been brought upon us, due to the pharmaceutical companies over prescribing and marketing these drugs to medical providers as not addictive or harmful for the patient. Doctors have been getting a lot of negative attention due to the opioid epidemic, thus resulting in doctors losing their jobs, license, etc. As Terrell stated, “Throughout the United States, physicians are being threatened, impoverished, delicensed, and imprisoned for prescribing in good faith with the intention of relieving pain” (2018). In the beginning of the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies began marketing a new painkiller called OxyContin. The advertisements portrayed OxyContin as a non-addictive painkiller and it was designed to treat any sort of pain. The advertisements also stated that less than 1% of patients became addicted to OxyContin. Therefore, physicians and pharmacies started prescribing OxyContin to most patients who complained about pain, resulting in many patients getting addicted and dependent to the drug. As Wright mentions, “Within ten years, the number of opioid prescriptions quadrupled in the United States. Soon thereafter addiction to OxyContin and other similar opioids became apparent. The pharmaceutical industry began to add gas to the fire as companies expanded the market to include a new drug called fentanyl” (2019).Opioids are misleadingly marketed and overprescribed in the United States, and sensible regulation is needed. Pill mills (in which prescribers dispense narcotics without a reasonable medical purpose) need to be shut down because they are a big cause of the epidemic and play a major role. However, patients taking opioids for a legitimate medical purpose sometimes provide these drugs to others, including family and friends. What should be implemented is better education and training of health care professionals that can improve prescribing practices. As Barglow mentions, “For instance, physicians should not prescribe opioids for a longer duration than effective pain management requires, and should consult a prescription drug monitoring database (PDMP) to track patients’ use of controlled substances and prevent “doctor shopping”” to obtain multiple prescriptions for the same medical condition” (2019) Alongside pharmacies and health practices offering better education about opioid abuse and addiction and how to prevent it