(Newswire.net — February 22, 2018) — For the second year, life expectancy in American has declined. The reason might surprise you. The National Center for Health Statistics reported 63,600 Americans killed from drug overdoses in 2016.
The last time the US faced a decline in life expectancy was during the 1960s at the height of tobacco use and during a severe flu outbreak. Now, life expectancy is again seeing a dip, this time due to an opioid crisis that is only deepening.
While heroin and fentanyl are part of the drugs used in the overdoses reported, 66 percent of the overdoses came from legal medications. For example, oxycodone and hydrocodone can both be obtained through prescriptions.
How do drug overdoses happen? When it comes to opioid overdoses, it can start off simply enough.
According to Elevate Addiction Services, “Opioid and heroin addiction are complex issues, and many new heroin users report starting their use of the drug after taking prescription opioid painkillers. Once refills are no longer available and addiction has set in, heroin becomes an affordable, accessible and attractive alternative.”
Should painkillers and other pain medications be looked at as gateway drugs? “While opioid painkillers are extremely effective in managing pain, they are also highly addictive. Most people naturally assume that medications prescribed by doctors are safe to take and do not account for the high risk of addiction these medications carry,” says Dan Manson, CEO of Elevate Addiction Services.
Repercussions of opioid dependency on US economy
It is difficult to get an accurate number of how many people are addicted versus those who are taking medication for legitimate reasons. However, in a report published by Bloomberg, employers have begun citing that it could be reducing the pool of active workers. In a paper by Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, almost 50 percent of men not working were found to be taking pain medications.
And in late October of 2017, Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The annual cost of the crisis was last estimated to be at $78.5 billion and the US Surgeon General says it is now claiming lives every 19 minutes.
Opioid abuse has long been a concern. But experts suggest the recent crisis is exacerbated by doctors prescribing stronger painkillers.
The way out for those dependent on opioids
Most experts warn that using opioids or pain management medication for any length of time will eventually cause a dependency.
The body builds a tolerance to the opioid being administered and higher doses are needed for the user to find relief. Even when the body is healed, and pain should no longer be an issue, the body begins to crave the feeling provided when on the drug. And withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug is not administered.
What often occurs is that a patient will take a low dose but find that to be insufficient and will experiment with higher dosage levels.
Doctors recommend that those who take opioid medication after surgery start with a strong dose. And then work to get off the medication as quickly as possible. Once pain management medication is no longer needed, doctors advise that you get rid of unused medication immediately. This will prevent it from being used without doctor oversight. It should be noted that opioid medications should only be used for short-term severe pain. If the pain lasts for longer than two weeks, alternative methods and a change of lifestyle should be explored.
Finding a pain medication treatment that won’t cause addiction has been the mission of researchers for the last decade.
In the meantime, how can those with legitimate pain issues cope without putting themselves at risk?
A more holistic approach might be needed where communication and nutrition become the primary tools to combat addiction. Treatment centers, like Elevate, are becoming the first line of defense in the battle against opioid addiction.
When used correctly, opioids and pain management medicine are a necessary part of the healing process. Pain can often keep a patient from sleeping, thus preventing vital healing processes that only take place during sleep. Thus, supervised use of opioids has its place in recovery. However, without strict oversight and careful use, opioid dependency can occur.
If a person suspects that he or she or a loved one might be developing a dependency, get help immediately. Check in with a doctor to see what limits are in place to prevent an addiction. And seek professional help if advised to do so.