According to the CDC, approximately 78 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose.
There has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, but prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled since 1999. Heroin use is, unfortunately, trending up. Three out of four new heroin users admitted to abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
According to drugabuse.gov, it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.
What can be done to decrease these numbers? Drug testing needs to be used by more primary care practitioners. Only 8 percent of physicians surveyed used drug testing. Overall, one out of every 550 patients who started on opioid therapy died of opioid-related causes a median of 2.6 years after the first opioid prescription. Opioid abuse isn’t something you can always notice in people. 72 percent of patients with a positive test result did not have any behavioral indicators. Death occurred a median of 2.6 years after the first opioid prescription.
Prescription drug monitoring programs need to be promoted. This will help health providers improve patient safety and prevent abuse. States have their own strategies to prevent overdoses, but these strategies need to be enforced on a regular basis. Patients need to know the side effects of prescription opioids, which questions to ask their doctor and how to properly store and dispose of prescription opioids to prevent abuse and accidental consumption by children and young adults.
Let’s try to prevent abuse and opioid overdose from ever happening with education (both patient and doctor) as well as regular testing to save more lives.