Mar 29, 2017

The Current State of Opioid Addiction: What Are We Doing About It?

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Many of us have been confronted with opioids either personally or with someone close to us. When a person reaches a point of addiction, every aspect of their lives and those around them can be negatively affected. For example, if you’ve just come out of surgery or are suffering from chronic pain, you probably appreciate medicine that numbs it, like opioids. Unfortunately, research shows that even medical use of opioids comes with a cost. Each year, millions of Americans become dependent on these addictive drugs, and the number of opioid deaths has quadrupled since the early 2000s.

And, for businesses, the costs are even bigger, especially when employee safety, absenteeism, productivity, and much more are impacted. In 2015, workers’ compensation payers spent $1.54 billion on opioids, and it is important that employers utilize and educate their employees on programs such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can be extremely helpful in helping individuals through issues such as addiction, and much more.

A new report by the CDC shows just how short the timespan is for a patient’s addiction. If a doctor prescribes an opioid medication for longer than five days, the patient has a much greater chance of becoming dependent on it.

If patients get their hands on a second dose, one out of seven will form an addiction. In the event that patients must take a long-acting opioid, about 25% will still be using the drug one year later. Unfortunately, many will also still need the painkiller after three years.

Interestingly enough, the sales of opioids have risen at the same rate that people are dying from prescription drug overdose. In other words, both opioid sales and opioid deaths have quadrupled from 2000 to 2014.

Changing Treatment

To combat this addiction, doctors are starting to avoid the prescriptions overall. The CDC recommends that doctors should not prescribe the drugs for chronic pain, and many doctors are deepening their knowledge of the prescription doses. For some cases, doctors are even opting for IV treatments of less harmful medicines, such as Tylenol.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie saw a dire need for change in doctors’ prescribing opioids. This state alone saw almost 1,600 drug-related deaths in 2015 alone.

Recently, the New Jersey governor signed legislation that restricts the drugs to a five-day time limit. Except for patients with chronic pain or cancer and for hospice use, doctors are forced to abide by the restriction. The new legislation also requires many health insurance companies to cover rehabilitating the addicted. With this new legislation, Gov. Christie is taking a huge measure that other state and national leaders could follow.

Combating Opioid Addiction

National leaders, including President Trump, have made enormous promises to fight opioid addiction. During the Presidential election, both Trump and his opponent campaigned around such things as increasing doctors’ access to overdose-reversing drugs and improving medical training on addiction.

While national leaders say they support efforts to fight this epidemic drug addiction, little has been done about it on a national level. VA clinics have reduced some of their own opioid prescriptions to veterans, but not many other measures are being taken against the addictive drugs. The evidence from numerous studies is overwhelming with regards to opioid addiction being a national issue of epidemic proportions. However, it seems as if many politicians are focusing their energy elsewhere.

More needs to be done to address opioid addiction. While the addicts themselves should be seeking help, leaders and doctors alike need to take action as well. America needs to protect itself from the thousands of tragic opioid deaths that happen each year and stop the drug addiction in its tracks.

The AWANE Team strongly believes that with the right support system such as a strong EAP in the workplace, combined with better patient and caretaker education, this problem can be controlled on a local level. However, much needs to be done nationally to fight against over-prescribing, misuse, and more.

We encourage you to please contact us to learn more about our programs and how AWANE offers custom employee benefit programs designed for you, by your industry leaders and advocates. Since 1929, our programs have helped hundreds of businesses remain strong, and protect their most important assets; their businesses and employees. Join our “power in numbers” today.