What’s America Doing About the Opioid Crisis?

Opioid epidemic

In the last few years, drug use has climbed to an all time high.  With the opioid death rate reaching approximately 64,000 in 2016 alone, President Trump finally called the opioid crisis in America a national emergency.  Although our President has appeared to show interest toward the nationwide issue, his actions to cut funding to substance abuse and mental health programs could say otherwise.  As of now, only 1 in 10 people receive the help they need to overcome their problem of addiction.  It’s quite possible cutting funding to programs attempting to control the epidemic could provide devastating effects.

No one group of people is to blame for the presence of the opioid crisis.  When the first opioid prescription painkillers were introduced decades ago, they were thought to be extremely safe and not habit-forming.  As more opioid medications were developed, researchers realized the addictive nature of the drug.  Still, they can be very effective in providing treatment to those who suffer from acute or chronic pain.  The downside is they target the central nervous system, which can become very dependent on certain chemicals.  

People often want to blame the doctors who described the medication, but they aren’t the only ones involved.  Insurance companies can be just as much to blame for covering the costs of certain medication.  It’s quite possible if a person is prescribed a specific medication and it’s not covered by their insurance, they will request a different medication, which could be one which is less addictive.  This was recently the case with a popular insurance company named Cigna.  Cigna recently announced its awareness of the opioid crisis by retracting coverage of Oxycontin, one of the most popular opioid drugs on today’s white and black market.  

One of the main problems contributing to the opioid epidemic is people don’t realize it’s happening if it doesn’t affect their daily lives.  Other major health concerns are constantly displayed on the media, such as Zika and Ebola virus’, and they generally spark panic and result in change.  Opioid addictions, however, appear to be swept under the rug, even though 90 people per day die of an opioid overdose.  If we could treat addiction to opioids as more of a mental health issue and not a criminal justice problem, people would likely get the help they need.  Becoming educated and aware and contributing any way you can will spread awareness of the growing problem.

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