Opioid Crisis: What Is It and What Is Being Done

Over 130 people in the United States die from opioid-related overdoses every day.

This statistic is overwhelming, tragic and truly shines a light on how detrimental the opioid crisis has become in our society. Opioid use has become so common in America and can be found in many homes, churches and organizations. In 2018, over 2 million people in America struggled with an opioid use disorder.

Opioids are a type of pain medication that blocks signals between the brain and body to alleviate pain. Opioids block brain messages sent to areas with opioid receptors on the brain, spinal cord, abdomen and other parts of the body. They also produce effects that help to relax a patient or create a feeling of happiness.

Opioids are prescribed for a plethora of reasons including migraines, neck and back pain, pain associated with cancer treatments or post-surgery. However, these prescriptions don't come without risk. Opioids are one of the most addictive drugs that doctors can prescribe. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, "opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival." Your body also begins to build up a tolerance to the medication, thus, those who take the medication will have to take more overtime to create the same effect.

Legal opioids include Oxycodone, known more popularly as the brand name "OxyContin," Codeine, Fentanyl and Morphine. The most common illegal opioid is heroin, which has no medical purpose and is not controlled by the FDA.

The opioid crisis refers to the enormous number of opioid drugs that are being used and abused by people in the United States. In the ‘90s, prescription companies began compelling doctors to prescribe opioids to their patients, promising that these drugs were not addictive and had no dangerous side effects. Now, people who have become addicted to their prescription pain medications must either have to endure withdrawal symptoms when their prescription ends or turn to illegal means to get the drug.

According to the Addiction Center, "about 80% of people using heroin started with a prescription to another opioid." Getting prescribed Oxycodone for post-surgery pain can quickly turn into an opioid addiction, which in turn can become a heroin addiction. This is how the opioid crisis has begun quickly and spread expeditiously.

Passed on Oct. 24, 2018, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act is a bipartisan law that "aims to address the prolonged national opioid crisis."

Through the SUPPORT Act, qualifying clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives are allowed to administer buprenorphine, a drug that helps with opioid addiction. This act also encourages them to become substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers by creating a loan repayment program.

Hospitals can now obtain new grant resources to be able to create protocols about how to discharge patients with opioid addictions. This provision also allows State Medicaid plans to cover inpatient & residential treatment with those suffering from opioid addiction.

The SUPPORT Act creates an opioid use disorder outpatient treatment demonstration under Medicaid and also includes the Medicaid Re-Entry Act, which allows enrollment for those in criminal justice settings.

Currently, there is a high-profile trial occurring, called the National Prescription Opiate Lawsuit to decide who[JC1]  pays the price for the opioid crisis. The plaintiffs include people from almost every level of government, while the defendants include people from every step of opioid production.

The proceedings are presumed to start on Oct. 21. However, it is believed that the defendants, which include Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Endo International and Allergan, will reach a settlement with the plaintiffs.

If you are struggling with drug addiction and would like to receive help, please reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service's Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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