The American Opioid Epidemic

The scourge of opioid addiction is a current issue being debated in the United States and directly tied to its healthcare system. It mainly involves the abuse of opioid medications originally administered as prescription pain relievers. Health pundits were the first to raise the alarm over opioids misuse, especially due to its social and economic impact on a population’s welfare. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently estimates that 135 people die daily as a result of opioid overdose; an economic burden that costs the United States close to $78.5 billion annually (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019). Apart from overdosing, health care practitioners are drawing the public’s attention to other distressing effects of opioid misuse. A rises in cases of the neonatal abstinence syndrome have now been linked to opioid abuse during pregnancy, leading activists to lobby the government for radical solutions.

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            The signing into law of the bipartisan bill by President Donald Trump sought to confront the opioid crisis and provide a much-needed solution.  Dubbed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Community Act, it seeks to provide a comprehensive solution to the problem (“SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6),” 2019.). The first area to be addressed is promoting the view that addiction is a disease and should therefore receive appropriate attention. Substance-use disorder (SUD) prevention programs also seek to bolster the law by expanding a patient’s access to the services offered while removing bureaucratic obstacles.  An increase in residential treatment program funding is also part of this strategy which endeavors to equip clinical officers with educational materials that would help them treat addicted pregnant and postpartum women. A prescription drug-monitoring product will also make sure that states and local jurisdictions collect critical data as a deterrent to opioid abuse.

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            The Direct your Own Care (DOC) is also a proposed solution and the most preferred one. Its premise is based on first gaining a firm understanding of the complex nature of pain and the inconstant influencing an individual’s perception. DOC breaks down pain into a number of interrelated components that eventually arm addicts with appropriate tools to surmount their addictions. Moreover, patients are also free to partner with their healthcare providers during this process as a way of developing a practical regimen that will serve them best during the recovery process.  Firstly, the sufferer will be expected to probe the possibility of preexisting structural problems that may manifest through the symptoms. Secondly, non-structural issues will also be investigated as possible origins of the pain as well as its link to the nervous system. Physicians are expected to appropriately assess a patient’s pain level before deciding whether the individual requires surgical intervention. Improvements on other aspects of the patients daily routine such as improving their sleep levels and reducing their stress levels will also function as intercession activities aimed at managing chronic pain.

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            Federal, state and local governments have different responsibilities when confronting the opioid crisis in the United States. The federal government has responded swiftly by implementing the SUPPORT Act which is expected to craft practical solutions and recommendations. Expanding the capability of drug treatment programs such as Medicare is widely accepted as a viable solution to this crisis. It would involve the incorporation of medication-assisted treatments as novel approaches to the epidemic. State governments such as Virginia and Texas have responded to the crisis by expanding Medicaid to addicted inmates. This would ensure that incarcerated persons are treated for their addiction when behind bars, freeing them from this yoke and hence reducing recidivism rates. Local governments have also emerged as major players in fighting opioid addiction within their jurisdiction. For instance, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York have resorted to expanding addict’s access to naloxone as a way of thwarting overdosing (McGreal, 2018, p. 67). In addition to this, safe injection sites in Philadelphia have significantly reduced the number of overdose related death and resulted in positive outcomes for the community.            

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In conclusion, the opioid crisis in the United States is a contemporary debacle linked to its health care system healthcare system. The signing into law of the bipartisan SUPPORT  Act bill and the Direct your Own Care (DOC) approach are two competing solutions that have been provided. Nevertheless, federal, state and local government all have specific roles to play in the fight against opioid abuse.

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