Tag Archives: Opiate Epidemic

The Heroin Epidemic Has Spread to Middle-Class Women

Female Heroin Use Middle Class Women - Fight Addiction Now

Women are dying from painkillers now more than any time in America’s history. Real people, true stories, harrowing destruction.

Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte* still has the track marks crawling up her arms. Her face has broken out with red bumps, and her bleach-blonde hair has grown the roots halfway out. She sits on a bench at a rehab facility in Arizona, picking at her bitten fingernails, unaware of the stares she’s getting from the seasoned patients.

Charlotte comes from a middle-class family, replete with a minivan, loving parents and a comfortable suburban lifestyle.

What has brought her to this state of fallen grace?

Charlotte’s boyfriend started selling Oxy in high school because the profits were so much higher than working in fast food restaurants like his peers. Over time, the boyfriend started using his own product, and so did his girlfriend.

The addiction took hold of Charlotte in less than a week, and the ecstasy and relief from the stress and insecurities felt by your average teenage girl was amazing. She felt like she needed more drugs around her menstrual cycles.

Dependence grew to tolerance, and tolerance grew to seeking more and more and stronger and stronger drugs. Before she knew it, our girl was shooting heroin with her boy behind the bleachers.

Now, in her late 20s, Charlotte awoke in her own vomit and soon found herself on an Arizona bench.

Charlotte survived, but more women than ever before in American history do not.

As women, we have an increased biological vulnerability to drugs. We get addicted much faster than our male counterparts, and we are affected by our hormones and a half dozen other factors. It’s not fair; it’s biology.

Mandi’s Story

A Californian mom of two beautiful teenage girls, Mandi* was rear ended by a drunk driver and sustained a shattered kneecap. The outrage and pain Mandi endures is still unbearable, years later.

“I was in so much anguish and anger, I couldn’t see straight,” she says.

Though Mandi went to counseling and was prescribed Percocet, her pain never completely went away. After only a few weeks of round-the-clock medicine, she was getting less relief with more pills. When Mandi had to quit her job due to the knee injury, she lost her health insurance.

Still suffering, Mandi had to find an alternative numbing product. What she found was that prescription drugs sold on the street are expensive and she couldn’t afford her habit.

The first time Mandi snorted the comparatively inexpensive drug heroin, she felt better than if she were smoking a fat joint or drinking cranberry vodkas. Snorting quickly turned to heroin injecting, which brought on shame and guilt. How could a woman with teenage daughters be shooting up?

Mandi was fearful of talking to her doctor about her heroin use. Like many of us moms who might find ourselves in similar circumstances, she worried she would be ostracized by others – or worse, that her children might be taken away by Child Protective Services.

The stigma around illicit drug abuse causes isolation, depression and creates a cycle of more drug use.

We can’t scream it loud enough: Women addicted to heroin are only human, regular people, no less worthy than other men and women who don’t have to suffer with the insidious disease of addiction.

Pill Mills Make It Too Easy

Pill mills are places that:

  • Take cash only.
  • Use their own pharmacy.
  • Let patients pick their own medicine, no questions asked.
  • Are illegal.

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Division found that narcotics are the second-most abused drug (just behind marijuana). These opioids rank above meth, cocaine, heroin and crack.

Controlled prescription drugs are accountable for tens of thousands more deaths due to poisoning than illicit drugs are. Many come from pill mills.

Female Heroin Use

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2004 and 2013, heroin and opioid use among women has increased at a rate twice that of men.

By 2013, a new type of female opioid user had emerged: a woman in college, a suburban mom, a working professional pulling in more than $60,000.

Women bear a heftier burden of emotional sensitivities and mental health issues like depression, trauma-related disorders and anxiety. Our brains are just wired differently.

This emotional make-up means women are more likely to be prescribed benzodiazepines and opioids.

Additionally, one in three women have experienced domestic violence. This type of trauma predisposes us to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. Being hurt by the one you trust and love creates emotional scarring and scathing brain changes that endure long after the physical scarring dissipates.

Palliative Ponderings

Female Heroin Users - Fight Addiction NowIt is truly startling that this epidemic has crossed all demographic lines and spread its wrath among every income and social bracket.

If these stories and facts shock you, maybe they shouldn’t. Out of all of the heroin-addicted, middle-class suburban women, more than 75 percent of this group started with legal prescription opioids, reports the acclaimed JAMA Psychiatry journal.

Even though we are becoming more aware since the Trump-proclaimed national health emergency, it is hard to resist a drug that takes away your pain, physical and emotional. Sometimes, for women, the line between what is physical pain and what is emotional pain is blurry.

Women are particularly vulnerable to diseases like fibromyalgia, a disabling illness which causes both physical and emotional pain, including a host of other symptoms.

What Is Your Picture of a Heroin User?

Before our culture understood that addicts are just people, and that we’re all in this world and this predicament together, we might’ve assumed a woman that uses heroin lives on the street. Maybe she turned to sex work to afford her heroin habit, or maybe she had to take heroin to endure selling her body.

Did you picture her as uneducated, unemployed or on government assistance?

Well, maybe that was true…40 years ago!

Who Is Immune?

The heroin epidemic is so widespread it makes us wonder if there is a demographic that’s immune to opioids.

Painkillers are, in essence, heroin packaged in pharmacy vials.

This gives us a false sense of security about taking them. In America, we hold our doctors in high esteem and leave them to decide what’s best for our health. They’re the experts, right?

But when the doctor says, “Enough. Your surgery was three months ago,” it’s too late: We’re hooked. And once the addiction has taken hold, it is normal to feel there is no way out.

So, who can truly be immune to the opioid epidemic?

Hooked on Heroin

Once the addiction has hooked us, it is then that women often turn to finding that same drug in new places rather than experiencing the dramatic rise in pain and sickening withdrawal systems? Who can cast blame? We’re only human.

By now, the effects of the painkiller are not as good as they once were, anyway; a tolerance has set in. We have become physically dependent.

Women go to pill mills, multiple doctors or, embarrassingly, the black market. After paying $20 or more per pill, we hear about heroin. For $10 a bag, you can get even more pain relief, your suburban neighbor says.

It is humiliating for a mom to admit she has a heroin addiction, so the secrets and lies begin. And the relief felt with heroin is sooo much better than pills; the first dose is orgasmic.

Pain Alternatives for Women

What can we do to deal with chronic or intense pain? The medical community is working harder than ever to come up with alternative treatments for women suffering from pain.

Some options to consider for physical pain include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Nerve block treatment
  • Anesthesia via IV or injection

Emotional Pain Alternatives for Women

For women suffering from emotional pain, which is often tied to physical pain, some non-pharmaceutical treatments to try are:

  • Massage therapy
  • Counseling
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Electrical muscle stimulation

Reach Out If You’re Affected

If you are a woman dealing with a heroin problem, we really hope you’ll give us the chance to help you find solutions difficult time. There is a better way.

Women suffer from unique challenges in life. If someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction – or you fear they’re heading down that road – don’t let her become another statistic. We implore you to reach out to us for help in finding treatment. Call or send us a note now.

Learn More About Heroin Addiction

*Real names withheld

 

Can You Use Marijuana to Get Off Opioids (Heroin/Painkillers)?

Can You Use Marijuana for Opioid Withdrawal Heroin Painkillers - Fight Addiction Now

The American opioid epidemic rages on. More than 2 million Americans are reportedly dependent on opioid drugs currently. In 2016 alone, some 42,000 people died of an opioid overdose. That’s more than 100 opioid-related deaths every single day.

Understandably, opioid addicts are terrified, and many are beginning to turn to unconventional treatments to overcome their addiction. As the number of accepted medical uses for marijuana has steadily grown over the past decade, many wonder if cannabis can be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence showing that marijuana can help people suffering from opioid withdrawals. However, marijuana use may be of some benefit during other stages of opioid addiction treatment.

Marijuana for Opioid Withdrawal: Does It Work?

Opioid Prescriptions In States With Medical Marijuana Statistic - Fight Addiction Now

It would be nice if simply smoking weed or eating marijuana food for opiate withdrawal were an effective treatment, but to put it bluntly, it’s not. There is very little that can be done to make the symptoms of opioid detox less miserable.

Once you’ve decided to get clean, you’ll inevitably have to suffer through opioid withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Cold flashes
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting

Now, there is some anecdotal evidence that marijuana may be able to partially relieve some of these symptoms, like nausea and insomnia, for example. But as a general rule, marijuana is not an effective replacement for opioids during the early stages of recovery.

Marijuana as a Replacement Painkiller

Many people who become addicted to opioid drugs began using them for legitimate reasons. There are countless stories of doctors prescribing painkillers to patients who, over time, become more and more dependent on the opioid medications.

And when their prescription runs out, many of these patients turn to street opioids to satisfy their drug dependence, which can eventually lead to heroin addiction and even death.

While marijuana may not treat the physical dependence on opioids, it can bring relief to the underlying chronic pain issues that led to the use of opioids in the first place.

Studies on Marijuana to Treat Chronic Pain

Harvard researchers recently performed a systematic review of 28 studies examining the effectiveness of cannabinoids to treat numerous chronic pain conditions. The Harvard team found that of six general chronic pain studies, all demonstrated that marijuana use resulted in a significant improvement in pain symptoms. In addition, five out of five studies showed that marijuana helped to alleviate neuropathic pain.

Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also seem to indicate that states that legalized medical marijuana observed a significant reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors. While these studies only show observational correlations, the research teams were confident that the drop in opioid prescriptions is related to the availability of legal marijuana, as there was no change in the number of non-opioid prescriptions during the study.

It’s hard to say whether marijuana can be an effective chronic pain treatment in all cases, but the research appears to show that many may be able to find relief by replacing their opioid use with marijuana.

Marijuana as a Recreational Opioid Replacement

Marijuana Food For Opiate Withdrawal - Fight Addiction Now

Not everyone uses opioid drugs for legitimate medical reasons. Those who use prescription painkillers or heroin recreationally may be able to replace opioids with marijuana. People abuse opioids for a number of nonmedical reasons, such as to relieve social anxiety or just unwind after a stressful day. Marijuana can provide similar effects to opioids in this regard, and is much safer in both the short and long term.

Whereas opioids have a tremendously high potential for addiction, marijuana does not. People can use it for years with little risk of developing a physical dependence. And while opioid overdoses claim tens of thousands of lives every year, it’s nearly impossible to have a fatal overdose of marijuana.

Now, we’re not recommending that people take up marijuana use just to have a good time, but if the choice is between marijuana and opioids, it’s safe to say that marijuana is going to be the safer option nearly 100 percent of the time.

Beating Opioid Addiction the Smart Way

If you are serious about kicking an opioid habit, there is no better way to do it than through a medical opioid detox program. For someone going through the process of quitting opioids, marijuana will not do much for the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but there are other medications that can.

If it’s deemed necessary, a trained physician at a medically assisted opioid detox facility may prescribe any of the following medications to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms:

Buprenorphine/Naloxone

An opioid and opioid antagonist, this drug helps with managing withdrawal symptoms and can be taken by injection, as an implant, under the tongue or as a skin patch. Be mindful that this medication has the potential for addiction if abused or taken for too long of a time.

Methadone

This medication, sold under the brand name Dolophine, can treat pain and help wean patients off other opioid drugs. Detox centers must be certified by SAMHSA to legally prescribe this medication, as it can be addictive if prescribed for too long or too heavy of a dosage.

Clonidine

Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that has proved to be effective in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. This drug works by affecting the central nervous system, and can be prescribed by any licensed physician.

Zofran

Zofran treats nausea and vomiting that accompany opioid withdrawal. Any licensed doctor at an opioid detox center can prescribe Zofran to patients.

Help with Finding an Opioid Detox Program

In the end, the decision comes down to each individual whether they will choose to use marijuana as a replacement of the symptoms or reasons they started taking opioid drugs. One thing that is certain, however, is that if someone is already addicted to opioids, marijuana is not going to magically get rid of their withdrawal symptoms. But don’t lose hope!

No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, with professional help and personal determination, anyone can start down the path toward a life free from opioid addiction.

Learn More About the Detox Process

Too Little Too Late? OxyContin Maker Purdue Stops Marketing Drugs to Doctors

OxyContin Rehab Purdue Pharma Stops Marketing Drugs to Doctors - Fight Addiction Now

After years of criticism and hundreds of lawsuits, Purdue Pharma LP has announced that it will no longer market OxyContin directly to doctors. Representatives for Purdue claim that their decision reflected an effort to combat the growing American opioid epidemic, but for the millions of Americans struggling with opioid addiction, this move is too little, too late.

In early February 2018, Purdue Pharma issued a statement to employees informing them that the company would be cutting their sales force by more than half. They also announced that salespeople will no longer meet with doctors to talk about the company’s opioid painkillers.

While these are indeed positive steps in combating the over-prescription of OxyContin, it’s important to remember that Purdue is widely credited with developing these hyper-aggressive marketing tactics in the first place.

Oxycontin and the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The root cause of the opioid epidemic can be traced back to 1996, the year OxyContin first emerged on the U.S market. Beginning in the late 1990s, the number of fatal drug overdoses begin to climb at a shocking rate. A large percentage of these deaths were caused by prescription opioid abuse.

In 2016, more than 60,000 people died from a drug overdose. Of these deaths, roughly 20,000 involved synthetic opioid drugs. That’s a nearly sevenfold increase from 2013, a year where synthetic opioids claimed the lives of some 3,105 individuals, according to the CDC.

Economic and Life Expectancy Impact

A White House Council of Economic Advisers report estimated that in 2015 alone, the opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy some $504 billion. That’s 2.8 percent of the country’s entire gross domestic product.
 
The opioid epidemic also played a major role in the average life expectancy of Americans dropping two years in a row in 2015 and 2016. This is the first time we’ve seen such a dramatic decline in life expectancy since the early 1960s! And while more and more addicts are taking advantage of various Oxycontin treatment options, research shows that this trend is likely to continue.

Purdue’s Use of Misleading Marketing

Purdue’s decision to stop marketing opioid painkillers stems from a number of lawsuits claiming that the drug manufacturer knowingly misled the public about how dangerous OxyContin really is.

Between 1996 and 2002, Purdue bankrolled more than 20,000 educational programs designed to encourage the use of OxyContin as a way to treat long-term chronic pain. This marketing campaign targeted groups such as the American Pain Society, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Academy of Pain Medicine as well as numerous pain patient groups.

As a result, these organizations all began to advocate the aggressive use of opioids to treat chronic pain.

In spite of the claims made by drug manufacturers, there is no scientific evidence that drugs like OxyContin are effective in managing chronic pain over a period of years. Tolerance to the effects of opioid drugs develops rapidly, and once patients begin upping their doses, dependence and addiction follow close behind.

How Long Do OxyContin’s Effects Really Last?

The makers of OxyContin even lied about the duration of the drug’s effects. For years, Purdue claimed that OxyContin’s extended-release formula would provide patents with 12 hours of pain relief. The facts on the ground paint a different picture, however.
 
Independent research, along with both patient and doctor testimonials, shows that many patients don’t get anywhere near 12 hours of pain relief from OxyContin. Purdue chose to ignore these claims, arguing instead that if patients are not receiving adequate pain relief, then it’s the doctors’ fault for prescribing too low of a dose.

Purdue Problems from the Top Down

If anyone still believes that Purdue suppressed these findings for reasons other than increasing their profits, remember that in 1996 a Purdue sales manager issued a memo to her staff urging them to recommend that doctors increase their patients’ doses of OxyContin. That memo was brazenly titled “$$$$$$$$$$$$$ It’s Bonus Time in the Neighborhood!”
 
It’s pretty clear that as long as Purdue’s profits continued to rise, treatment for opioid addiction was the last thing on the company’s mind.

Too Little, Too Late

Purdue’s decision to stop marketing OxyContin in 2018 is similar to an arsonist deciding to stop throwing gasoline on a house that’s already burned to the ground. The damage has been done.

Over the last few years, OxyContin has become less and less profitable. This is due in large part to stricter prescription guidelines, as well as growing public awareness of the drug’s dangerous potential.

However, recent research has shown that around 1 million Americans have used OxyContin at least once in their lifetime, and thousands enter OxyContin rehab programs every year. Given these numbers, it’s hard to imagine that additional marketing can make the problem much worse than it already is.

While public health experts and activist groups may celebrate Purdue’s decision to pull back their opioid marketing efforts, it’s pretty obvious that the drug maker is simply trying to rebuild its public image.

Possible Damages Could Fund More OxyContin Rehab and Treatment

Thankfully, Purdue Pharma is currently facing numerous lawsuits filed by different state and local governments. These lawsuits are aimed at raising money to fund various Oxycontin addiction treatment programs, including drug-avoidance classes in schools and government-funded opioid rehab programs.
 
These pending lawsuits also help to explain why Purdue would choose to stop marketing OxyContin. By taking action before the government forces the company to, it may appear more responsible and forward-thinking to the courts. Clearly, Purdue’s actions are not determined by what is right, but rather what is most profitable.

What’s Your Take?

What are your thoughts on Purdue Pharma’s decision to scale back on OxyContin marketing? If you’d like to join the conversation about these recent developments, or if you want to learn how to help someone with Oxycontin addiction, Fight Addiction Now has the resources and platforms for you to do just that. Weigh in on the comments below, or click to view our Prescription Drug Addiction Resource:

Prescription Drug Fact Sheet

Fentanyl-Induced Amnesia and Other Long-Term Health Problems You Can Expect from Messing Around with Fentanyl

Fentanyl-Induced Amnesia and Other Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Use - Fight Addiction

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid used as a pain medication in prescription drugs. The medication is often used for the management of chronic or after-surgery pain.

Designed in the 1950s, fentanyl is a synthetic alternative to morphine. It is extremely potent and closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, the drug is hundreds of times more potent than heroin found on the street, making it extremely dangerous when not monitored by health professionals.

When used in small doses for a pain management system by physicians, the drug can be safe. The problem is that the drug is so potent that even those with prescriptions can accidentally overdose. This potency is also why fentanyl has become an increasingly popular street drug.

Recreational use of fentanyl has been rising since the 1970s, on its own or mixed with other drugs. Many times, buyers are misled into believing they are buying pure heroin or Oxy, when in fact the drug is fentanyl or fentanyl-laced. This misrepresentation has led to thousands of overdose deaths, as the buyer is unaware of ingredients.

What Drugs May Contain Fentanyl

Fentanyl increases the potency of many opioid and non-opioid drugs, making it a popular choice for illicit drug makers. The addition of fentanyl can also be used to compensate for low-quality heroin or to give dealers an edge up on their competition by creating a better high for users.

If you participate in recreational drug use, you need to be aware of the dangers of fentanyl-laced drugs. Always remember that unless you have manufactured the drug yourself, you don’t know exactly what is in it.

Heroin

Overdoses on heroin are common across the country, but are often not caused by pure heroin. Research is beginning to show that thousands of those overdoses were caused by fentanyl-laced heroin, of which users were unaware. Sometimes, these overdose deaths cause a boost in sales for dealers because it attracts addicts who can never get high enough.

When heroin is laced with fentanyl, it’s almost impossible to identify unless you know what you’re looking for. Authorities with experience in seizing drugs say pure heroin has a yellow tint to it, while fentanyl powder is bright white.

The concoction of fentanyl-laced heroin can be unadvertised or sell under the names Theraflu, Bud Ice or Income Tax. Understanding these facts can save your life.

Cocaine

Fentanyl has been commonly laced in heroin for decades, but the presence of the drug in cocaine is more recent. Fentanyl acts as a depressing agent, whereas cocaine is purely a stimulant, making it unclear why the two are being batched together.

Experts have theories suggesting it is used to stretch cocaine or is part of an inadvertent cross-contamination on the part of dealers. Cocaine is just as white as fentanyl, which makes it impossible to identify with the naked eye.

Ecstasy

Like cocaine, fentanyl has just recently been discovered after overdoses on a combination including ecstasy. The rates of overdoses involving fentanyl and ecstasy are on the rise, and many authorities believe it is due to cross-contamination. Because fentanyl is so potent, it takes only a few dust particles of the drug to contaminate a new batch and become lethal.

Marijuana

Marijuana laced with fentanyl is a sort of oddity. There are many conflicting reports that this combination exists. The DEA has stated publicly it has not discovered the combination, but dealers in online forums claim they do mix marijuana and fentanyl together to increase highs.

The reason for this disparity can be that fentanyl present in marijuana is difficult to detect or is so new on the market the DEA has yet to catch on. If you are a marijuana user, just be aware that the combination is a possibility, albeit a slim one.

Fake Pills and Opioid Painkillers

In 2017, more than two dozen patients in Macon, Georgia were hospitalized after buying and consuming what they had thought to be Percocet pills after buying them on the street. Instead of containing the active ingredients of Percocet, the pills contained a near-lethal combination of other drugs, including fentanyl.

The presence of counterfeit pills is on the rise across the country and can result in lethal overdoses, as users are unaware of the ingredients. Many of the pills are coming from Mexico or China and look almost identical to their legitimate counterparts.

The Effects of Fentanyl

Often, people do not consume fentanyl purposely. The extremely minute amount required for a high or potential overdose makes the drug unattractive for most users. As previously mentioned, problems arise when users are unaware of the ingredients in drugs they are using. What some people expect to be a normal high can easily turn deadly without the user knowing what happened.

Side Effects of Fentanyl

When used as prescribed by a medical physician, fentanyl still has strong and sometimes long-lasting side effects. Short-term side effects of normal fentanyl use can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Altered heart rate
  • Slow breathing rate
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Seizures

When the drug is used in excess or in high doses, more serious side effects will occur. It’s important to understand that only a few particles can cause a person to overdose.

The margin for overdose is so small that serious and life-threatening side effects are guaranteed. These side effects include:

  • Fainting
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Severe confusion
  • Lack of oxygen circulating in the body
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Overall non-responsiveness

Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Use

When used in the long term, fentanyl leads to multiple organ damage due to lack of oxygen throughout the body. Hypoxia is the term used for oxygen level delivery around the system that is considered too low. Anoxia is the condition where no oxygen is delivered around the body, leading to organ failure and death. Other long-term effects include severe and varied damage to the brain.

Brain Damage

Oxygen is vital to the brain. Without it, permanent brain damage and death will occur. When fentanyl is used long term, the depressed respiratory system causes a lack of oxygen to the brain.

The lack of oxygen will then cause:

  • Memory loss
  • Hearing and vision impairment
  • Loss of coordination
  • Cognition impairment
  • Potential retardation

Severe lack of oxygen to the brain can cause damage within one to two minutes. Long-term suppression of breathing due to a depressed respiratory system occurs gradually.

Other Damaging Effects of Fentanyl

With long-term use of fentanyl, the depressed respiratory system also leads to lack of oxygen delivery to organs. The organs slowly begin to shut down. If the user continues taking fentanyl and does not seek treatment, death will result. Organs will begin shutting down, typically beginning with the kidneys and liver.

Fentanyl has also been shown to cause amnesia after long-term use or overdose. Amnesia can be long or short term, depending on the amount used.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Symptoms Of Fentanyl Caused Hypoxia - Fight Addiction Now

Fentanyl is an opioid, so treatment for addiction to fentanyl is essentially treatment for opioid addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms begin anywhere from three to 17 hours after last use. The symptoms peak in the first few days but will level off within a week or so. The symptoms of withdrawal can be severe, so the process should be monitored by medical personnel.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Crying
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Stomach cramping
  • Joint pain

Often, opioid addiction is treated by weaning the user slowly off the drug with smaller and smaller opioid doses. This method can help calm withdrawal symptoms to ease the transition. Again, this should only be performed with the help of medical professionals.

The Deadliness of Fentanyl

If you choose to use drugs recreationally, be aware of the dangers that come with fentanyl-laced drugs. Nearly all fentanyl overdose deaths were the result of people who unknowingly took the drug. In many instances, fentanyl cannot be detected or seen by the naked eye, so you never know what you’re getting when you buy drugs on the street.

It only takes a 100th of the amount of fentanyl compared to heroin to kill an average-sized adult male. This means only a few tiny particles of fentanyl can be lethal, especially if it has been manufactured on the street.

You never know what you are getting when you buy drugs, and often your dealer doesn’t know what they’re selling, so just be sure to keep the danger of fentanyl at the forefront of your mind.

Take the ‘Am I Addicted’ Quiz

Denying Chronic Pain Sufferers Pain Medication Can Only Worsen the Opioid Crisis in 2018

Denying Chronic Pain Sufferers Pain Medication Worsen The Opioid Crisis In 2018 - Fight Addiction

If pain is your constant companion, shouldn’t you have the right to pain relief according to current medical advances?

Is it fair for the public to look down on you for needing painkillers? How about being met with indifference and discredited by the doctors you are reduced to pleading to help you?

This is the situation many chronic pain sufferers are finding themselves in today.

The New War on Drugs Could Worsen the Opioid Crisis

The opioid addiction epidemic in America has sparked much concern over the staggering death toll it is taking on our citizens. So, we have waged a new war on drugs: prescription opioids.

Prescription opioids, or opiates, derive from the poppy plant and can be natural or synthetic. Opiates have been used since the dawn of civilization. From Hippocrates prescribing juice of the poppy to the morphine used for injuries in the Civil War, opiates have been the mainstay of pain relief.

Here are the most common prescription opioids today:

  • Vicodin, Norco, hydrocodone
  • OxyContin, Percocet, oxycodone
  • Codeine, Tylenol with codeine
  • Fentanyl patches, Duragesic, fentanyl
  • Dilaudid, hydromorphone
  • Demerol
  • MS Contin, Kadian, morphine

The class of opioids even includes the illegal drug heroin and some illicit forms of fentanyl and opium.

Opioid Addiction Help or Harm?

Does putting restrictions on opioid prescriptions help or harm chronic pain sufferers?

Political issues, the big business of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance all have a big impact on the practice of medicine.

With the mounting death toll related to opioids, doctors have been prescribing less pain medication. Similarly, state governments are implementing new laws on how much pain medication doctors can prescribe.

These restrictions make it harder for people with legitimate needs to get their pain medicine, even causing them harm in some cases. But, restrictions on painkillers will not be able to prevent all opioid use or solve the opioid epidemic. (It’s not like all of the current laws against illegal drugs are preventing heroin addiction.)

Q & A and Debates

Opioid Death Statistic 2016 Infographic - Fight Addiction NowIn the debate on how best to handle opioid abuse and overdose, the group with the softest voice is those patients who rely on opioids to get through life.

People with lifelong chronic pain issues have few or no other options for effective relief. Facing a lifetime of suffering from a non-curable condition or an old injury significantly reduces one’s quality of life.

Q: Is it fair to people needing chronic pain management to treat them like drug addicts or worse, that they are not really in pain and not credible?

And where does that leave people in pain who are now suddenly unable to get the medication they need to manage their lives?

How can another person, even a medical professional, adequately deduce your pain?

A: Individual pain is as unique as our brains are from each other, and everyone has a different tolerance.

A few will find an alternative holistic plan for some relief, but many are turning to illicit opioids, as evidenced by upward trends in heroin abuse. Some are looking for pain relief in alcohol and other substances. Others will lose the ability to contribute to society as pain cripples them into being unable to function or work a job. Unore people will be forced to apply for disability or government assistance.

There is even a debate among doctors and medical professionals regarding the opioid addiction epidemic. Doctors focused on the dangers of opioid use tout the belief that chronic pain patients should concentrate on their emotional reaction to pain with coping and acceptance strategies, and only secondarily try to reduce their physical pain.

Physicians focused on compassionate care take the stance that if a patient has tried several other treatments without positive results, painkillers should be provided so the patient retains some quality of life.

Who Should Make Health Care Decisions?

It is true that the numbers of accidental overdose and death attributed to opioids have risen significantly and are disturbing. Drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin need to be prescribed and monitored carefully by a conscientious physician.

But the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showing 30,000-plus opioid-related deaths each year can be put in perspective with the 15,000 anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen) drug deaths per year that no one is talking about.

However, when we have politicians and businesses dictating to doctors what the best medical practices are, we are not allowing the most qualified people to make decisions concerning patients’ health.

Medically trained physicians judge best which treatments suit their patients, not the government, not the pharmaceutical industry or lobbyists with the most money, and not the insurance companies.

Some pharmacies are imposing distribution limits on opioids. Some insurance companies, formerly the champions of opioids as an inexpensive front-line treatment, are starting to require a prior authorization for medications like morphine and fentanyl.

The Politics of Opioid Dependence

President Trump established a commission last year to examine the opioid crisis and to present solutions. Furthermore, the president declared a national public health emergency after hearing the commission’s findings.

While no one can deny opioids are dangerous, according to some people, this new war on prescription drugs is mostly a political move. Winning wars for a good cause early in a presidency tends to result in positive gains the opinion polls and can set a candidate up for winning a second term.

Prescription Restrictions Causing People to Turn to Stronger Drugs

It is worrisome that the current trends toward limiting doctors’ abilities to legally prescribe painkillers could only worsen the opioid epidemic by pushing more people toward heroin and opioid addiction.

Due to increased awareness, state government oversight and doctors’ fears of punitive measures for prescribing too many narcotics, prescription opioid numbers have decreased over the past few years. However, as rates of prescription opioids dispensed have gone down, rates of heroin use have gone up.

The original crackdown on prescription opioid medications is what led many to switch to heroin. Heroin is very similar in chemical makeup to prescription pills, only much stronger and more powerfully addictive.

Because of current societal views, people dealing with chronic pain can be left untreated or under-treated. Additionally, they are often stigmatized as drug abusers and criminals.

Alternatives to Limiting Painkillers

Instead of penalizing the majority for the troubles of the minority, we could focus on monitoring patients for risky behavior in opioid use.

We already have stringent state monitoring plans in place on controlled substances. These programs check for multiple prescriptions, multiple doctors and early refills. This helps identify patients who are misusing the drugs and are thereby at risk for accidental overdose.

By putting control of patients’ health back in the hands of qualified physicians and the patients themselves, mutual responsibility for safety can be shared by the ones most affected. It is a better than forcing chronic pain sufferers to choose between a life of agony and criminalization and addiction.

An Engaging Discussion on Human Rights

How does the risk of societal harm stack up against the rights of the individual to have effective pain relief?

Not everyone who uses pain medication is a drug addict. Should people with a legitimate need for medication be denied it because other people abuse it? By that logic, we would re-establish prohibition.

Denying painkillers to those in pain will no more stop the use and abuse of opioids than prohibition stopped alcohol use and abuse. Addiction and drug abuse are much deeper issues than a prohibition-type regime could ever solve.

Have you been denied medication or found it more difficult to obtain legitimate prescription medications? What have your experiences or your family’s experiences been with prescription opioids? Join us on our forum to discuss this hot topic, or learn more about the risks of prescription drugs by clicking below.

See Our Prescription Drug Fact Sheet

Is Pain Management and Care Being Forgotten in the Fight Against Opioids?

Pain Management and Care Being Forgotten in Fight Against Opioids - Fight Addiction Now

Opioids – A Blessing Turned into a Curse?

The opioid epidemic in America has received so much attention that it makes some wonder whether all of the recent media and government involvement is helping or hurting our citizens in the long run.

The White House has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from opioid-related deaths.

And yet, pain management is a real issue. We should have the right to pain-controlling medications when needed. And right now, opioids are the most effective option to combat severe or chronic pain.

Pain Management and Care in Relation to the Opioid Epidemic

Ending the Addiction Stigma Fight Addiction NowA new study published in the journal JAMA Surgery found that post-surgical patients are at increased risk of addiction because of the pain medication necessary during recovery. The researchers concluded that patients should be administered smaller doses of pain meds post-surgery and counseled on the risks and proper uses of opioids.

For a year now, Michigan’s University Hospital has been implementing these new guidelines of dispensing fewer post-op pills. The results have been favorable, as evidenced by:

  • Patients’ reported pain not increasing
  • Requests for refills remaining the same
  • Patients actually using fewer pills

Opioid Laws

Opioids have long been a controlled substance, but new laws in half of the U.S. now limit the number of pills a doctor can prescribe at one time. More hospitals are implementing the practices adopted at Michigan’s University Hospital.

The current regulatory climate is focused on reducing the number of pills dispensed and discouraging patients from using opioids unless as a last resort. Many states expect doctors to present certain talking points to their patients. In many cases, state law requires patients to sign a document affirming they understand the risks and rules of opioids.

Problems in Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

The vast number of overdose deaths related to opioids seems to have frightened America into single-mindedly setting a mission to reduce those sheer numbers. There are many who are caught up in the struggle of opioid addiction. But what about those who are caught up in the struggle against chronic pain?

Are people who suffer with daily pain now S.O.L. and without help?

A nationwide survey finds that 34 percent of doctors feel that moving away from prescribing painkillers for patients with chronic pain issues may be hurting people. More than one-third of the physicians polled reported that pulling back on pain medications prolongs patients’ misery.

Quality of Life Questions

To deny someone suffering in pain the medication we have available through science is a travesty. If we have the medical knowledge available to help people, we should use it.

At the same time, we don’t want to harm others’ quality of life by allowing addictive and potentially lethal medications to go unchecked and rampantly used for nonmedical purposes.

Insurance Issues

One aspect people forget to consider in this fight against opioids is what people can afford based on what their insurance covers. Insurance companies often do not cover Schedule III drugs. Drugs in this class are far less addictive and often equally effective at managing pain. Many insurance plans do cover drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl, Schedule II drugs, which are more addictive opioids.

Oftentimes, insurance companies require burdensome prior authorizations for drugs like buprenorphine, an effective Schedule III opioid drug. Prior authorizations require time and research from the doctor’s office and are only approved under certain conditions. This is annoying for doctors and pharmacies alike, and can mean a potential waiting period for patients to receive their medication — if it ever gets approved.

Buprenorphine works well for chronic pain while avoiding the typical tolerance and severe respiratory depression that comes with most Schedule II opioids, which do not require a prior authorization.

Why? Money. Pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are big business. And insurance companies pay for the cheapest effective drugs first. So, because certain opioids are cheaper, doctors and insurers push these medications to patients first.

Ethical Implications

Insurers restricting more expensive but less addictive painkillers just doesn’t seem right. A doctor’s oath includes the promise to “do no harm.” But insurance companies take no such oaths and make no such promises. They focus on their bottom line. But is this ethical? Is this in the best interest of patients?

Perhaps it keeps premiums lower. But it begs the question, “Should insurance companies be for-profit to begin with?”

Doctors have received a lot of criticism for prescribing opioids, but maybe insurers should shoulder some of that blame. It sure seems like insurers are trying to remove the responsibility from themselves and not factor in the best care and quality of life of the insured.

Now, because of the harrowing opioid problem, insurance companies are starting to limit the opioid medication they will cover.

Many insurance companies cover very little in the way of addiction treatment. That raises another debate that if the insurers are contributing to the problem but unwilling to fix it, where does that leave patients?

Weigh In

What do we do to balance the opioid addiction crisis in the scales of chronic pain sufferers? We want to hear you weigh in on the debate!

Have we lost sight of the real problems of the opioid epidemic? Are people in pain suffering needlessly? Or are we just continuing to shuffle blame and not coming up with real solutions to help those affected by opioid addiction and chronic pain?

Chime in with your opinions and experiences! Be part of the debate, the search for answers and finding a solution. We invite your comments below, or feel free to discuss this topic in our forum.