What is the Opioid Crisis?
The opioid crisis refers to the rapid increase of abuse of opioids, which are a class of drugs chemically related to heroin. Opioids include street drugs, such as heroin, as well as legal prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, Vicodin, fentanyl, and many others. Since the year 2000, deaths from opioid overdose has tripled; in 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, and more than 2 million Americans struggled with substance abuse disorders related to prescription painkillers. This crisis has taken a toll on the country financially: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the annual economic burden at $78.5 billion, due to the cost of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. It also takes a toll on the lives of addicts and their families. How did this happen?
Drug Abuse in America
The roots of the opioid crisis can be found in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies promoted opioid painkillers as an addiction-free method to manage pain. As a result, doctors increasingly prescribed these drugs, but over time, it became apparent that opioid painkillers are highly habit-forming. Many people begin using opioid painkillers as a legitimate way to handle real pain, but, unfortunately, they become dependent upon them. Once addicted, some people will seek out prescription painkillers, either by doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions or by illegally obtaining the drugs through theft or drug dealers. Others will turn to heroin, which can be cheaper and easier to obtain. Consider the following statistics of addiction from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- Between 21 and 29% of patients with a prescription for opioids for chronic pain misuse them
- Between 8 and 12% develop an opioid abuse disorder
- Between 4 and 6% of people who misuse prescription painkillers transition to heroin use
- 80% of heroin users first misused prescription opioid painkillers
These statistics show a clear link between the surge in prescriptions for opioid painkillers and opioid abuse.
New Approaches to Treat Opioid Addiction
This epidemic of abuse calls for new approaches to addiction treatment. Drug addiction treatment statistics show that, sadly, many people who struggle with drug addiction never seek help. The National Drug Treatment Agency reports that only 1.2% of illegal drug users contact a drug treatment center. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that of people who do seek admission to a specialized treatment center, the majority come for alcohol abuse, but heroin and other opiates account for the largest percentage of drug-related admissions, at 20%. For those who reach out for help, what can be done?
One innovative approach is the Comprehensive Opioid Response with the 12 Steps (COR-12) program developed by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. This approach combines the traditional 12 step philosophy with medication-assisted therapy. The traditional 12 steps emphasize submitting to a higher power, achieving total abstinence from drugs, and obtaining support from other addicts in recovery through regular meetings. Medication-assisted therapy uses prescription drug replacements, such as buprenorphine or methadone, to wean the user off of heroin or prescription painkillers while avoiding some of the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. COR-12 combines these approaches to help users recover from addiction. Treatment is long-term, with a minimum of 4 months but lasting up to 2 years if necessary. Early statistics show that, 6 months after treatment, 71% of COR-12 patients are abstinent, compared to 52% of non-COR-12 patients.
If you or someone you love struggles with opioid addiction, contact us at our toll-free number. 4Rehabilitation can help you find the treatment center that is right for you.