Did you know that nearly half of opioid misuse starts with a friend or family member’s prescription?
Substance abuse is a factor of both family environment and family DNA and even laypeople know the cautionary tale of the kid who “learned it from watching” his father. But when it comes to opiates, the danger for misuse and overdose is even greater.
A recent article made the very sharp point that opioids were all too available, even without an already overly easy to get prescription. Here are the key takeaways:
- Sixty percent of adults who misuse opioids did not have a prescription
- Most of these obtained them for free from friends and relatives
- Regular access to opioids leads to misuse
- In a 2015 study, researchers found that one in every three adults is misusing opioids
The situation is as dire as ever, but the article says there is an obvious solution: stop prescribing opioids. And if they must be prescribed, order fewer pills in smaller quantities. The article cites the stat that post-partum women who are prescribed opiates for pain often use less than half the amount given. It would appear that there are medicine cabinets all over America with unused pills waiting to be misused.
Of course, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that—for one thing, post-partum moms are bombarded with messages as to what is safe and what is unsafe to take while nursing. It’s likely the moms chose pain over risking their baby’s health. Further, the cessation of prescribing opioids is not a panacea, according to a study from the Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
“The adoption of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescribing guidelines . . . [is a] short-term approach to quell this epidemic,” the report says. “However, with more than 125 million Americans suffering from either acute or chronic pain, the development of effective alternatives to opioids, enabled at least in part by a fuller understanding of the neurobiological bases of pain, offers the best long-term solution for controlling and ultimately eradicating this epidemic.”
It’s an ambitious but achievable goal. Humans have always been able to find a solution to our mortal ailments . . . eventually. But in the meantime, we would rather not see the opioid epidemic as a zero sum game. Instead of “either/or,” let’s embrace “both/and” and keep trying everything we can to see this terrible epidemic loosen its grip on the United States.