There’s no way around it: Americans are addicted to prescription opioids. For every minor ache, pain, or crick, we pop a pill in our mouths- or more than one. We want our pain medications stronger, faster acting, and longer-lasting. Is that any surprise, though? Our history with opioids has been a rocky road since the very beginning, when trade introduced opium into America.
Today, the effects of opioid drugs are understood on a much deeper level: we know now why opioid drugs are so addictive, exactly how they interact with our central nervous system, and what internal biological processes lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, opioid abuse is also more widely spread than ever before. No, we’re not visiting underground opium dens- but we are injecting opioid drugs like heroin in public restrooms, public parks, and other establishments.
Perhaps you can no longer purchase heroin at your local pharmacy, but there are more powerful opioid pain medications on the markets which are regularly abused- prescribed or not.
Today’s opioid drug abuse epidemic is affecting our country on two fronts: prescription opioid abuse, which common among young adults and teens, and illicit drug abuse. Often one begets the other- when prescription pills are no longer enough or available, people who are addicted to prescription opioids turn to illegal opioids- usually heroin.
Regardless of the method of abuse, it’s clear that the opioid abuse epidemic has reached critical levels- but could the answer be sitting right in front of us?
By taking the time to truly consult a patient and understand the nature of their pain or illness, doctors can help to wean America off of our addiction to opioid drugs. Instead of instantly reaching for a prescription for powerful opioids, find equally effective medications without the dangers of opioid abuse. Dr. Gupta believes that a lack of follow up and thorough investigation is a major factor in the overwhelming painkiller abuse problem.
He is not the first to suggest that the medical industry needs to step up to help end the battle against substance abuse. With doctors being brought before a court on charges of manslaughter and murder for their parts in overdose deaths and measures being taken to warn about the dangers of powerful painkillers, it seems like our legal and legislative authorities agree.