According to the CDC, the number of prescriptions of opioids has been declining since it peaked in 2010, since public health and law enforcement has raised concerns about the issue of prescription drug addiction and overdoses. The new initiative in 2010 offered guidance to providers on dispensing the drugs. Some studies have shown a 12-18% decrease in prescription opioids.
With the change in culture in health care and raised awareness of the possible effects of these medications, we have witnessed a slight curve in the amount of prescriptions. Still, we have seen an increase in heroin use and other opioids related overdoses and deaths. Heroin has reached epidemic levels since the decreased availability of prescription opioids.
In 2014, the CDC reported 47,055 drug overdose related deaths in the U.S. From 2014 to 2015, the overdose death rates from synthetic opioids other than methadone, increased by 72.2%, and heroin death rates increased by 20.6%.
The Affordable Care Act had proposed adding a $1.1 billion to combat the nation’s spiraling opioid abuse and epidemic in the fiscal year 2017. This additional funds would be used to apply evidence-based prevention and counseling programs, prescription drug monitoring programs, drug take back events, and improved access to opioid reversal agent, Narcan. This funds would be cut if The American Healthcare Act gets passed into law.
The easy access to naloxone, Narcan, also raises concerns. One is that drug users might be encouraged to use larger amounts knowing they have access to naloxone in the event of overdose, or they may inject more to keep the narcan from taking away the high. We cannot deny the fact that Narcan saves lives, and the improved access at least by first reponders must be considered.
Prescription drugs misuse and overdose affects our patients, friends and family. As nurses and healthcare providers we have a responsibility to aid in the control and prevention of misuse. By educating the patients and working with prescribing physicians to assess the need to switch to other agents for better pain control for instance may be needed.
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The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN