Opiate addiction plagues U.S., but there is hope

B_Connors_Info-PicU.S. heroin and prescription drug use is an epidemic that is spinning out of control. According to a report published by Reuters, there were more than 43,000 deaths in 2013, of which more than half involved either a prescription painkiller or heroin. That number has continued to rise each year.

How do we, the U.S. population or even the healthcare community, allow this trend to continue?

What is not publicized enough is the direct connection between prescription opiates and heroin. In the U.S., 52 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2010, enough prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and others, were prescribed to medicate every American adult every four hours for one month, reports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

When these painkillers become unavailable or more difficult to access, a person looks for alternatives  such as heroin. Heroin provides the desired “high” at close to one-tenth of the price. Then we see a crossover – from prescription drug/painkiller to heroin.

Fortunately, it is not complete doom and gloom. SAMSHA continues to award federal grants to many states in which heroin-opiate addiction is killing thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of people per year. The success of Medication Assisted Treatment also has evolved to better combat this rising public health issue.

Our treatment centers now are expanded to provide methadone, Suboxone or Naltrexone – all clinically proven protocols to aid in the treatment of addiction. Treatment is seen to be extremely successful when partnered with lifestyle changes, individual and/or group therapy, and most of all a changed view of life.

While we struggle with the headlines reporting another heroin addiction and death, we must also publicize that treatment is not only an option … but a life changer.