Today’s opiate addiction epidemic has gained considerable momentum since the turn of the 21st century. What was once confined to urban areas just 20 years ago now affects people from all walks of life.
According to the Department of Health & Human Services, overdose-related deaths involving prescription painkillers and heroin have nearly quadrupled since 1999. In the absence of some form of action, the next 20 years may well see addiction’s impact reach a point of no return in the United States.
With a Republican-run Congress in place, President-Elect Donald Trump has the wind at his back as America decides how to tackle a growing opiate addiction epidemic. With newly passed legislation ready to be put into action, all that’s missing is a steady hand on the tiller.
While Mr. Trump has laid out a few plans on how he will combat addiction rates, many key factors still remain up in the air, one of which being health care coverage.
Opiate Addiction Treatment 2017 – Donald Trump’s Objectives
As a presidential candidate, Trump listed a few of his plans for dealing with the opiate addiction epidemic of today:
- Building a wall across the Mexican border to stop the influx of heroin
- Making naloxone, the drug used to treat opiate overdose more accessible
- Restrict the amount of prescription opioids manufactured in the United States
- Provide incentives for state and local governments to mandate treatment provisions
- Prosecute drug traffickers
- Close shipping loopholes for drugs like fentanyl that come from China
- Speed up the Food & Drug Administration’s approval process of non-opioid pain medications
While Trump’s plans appear to address the addiction problem from all angles, he has yet to introduce plans to change the way opiate addiction is treated. As opiate addiction already has a firm foothold across communities, the relapse aspect of addiction must be addressed in order for any real progress to be made.
Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act
As of July 2016, the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, or CARA was signed into law. According to GovTrack, this piece of legislation lays out key objectives for enhancing opiate addiction treatment services:
- Make medication-assisted treatments, such as methadone and buprenorphine more accessible
- Identify and treat incarcerated individuals rather than relying on imprisonment to deter drug-related crimes
- Improve prescription drug monitoring programs and make needed treatment accessible for at-risk individuals who attempt to scam the system
With a ready-made piece of legislation in place, CARA nicely compliments Trump’s plans for attacking the opiate addiction epidemic. More importantly, CARA incorporates action-based measures for changing how opiate addiction is treated.
An Uncertain Future for Affordable Care Act Provisions
While having a plan in place to combat opiate addiction rates in this country is critical, ensuring those who need treatment help can afford it is equally important. The Affordable Care Act of 2010, or ACA makes provisions for people who need opiate addiction treatment to access and pay for treatment services.
To date, it’s unknown whether Trump will repeal the ACA or modify it. Without a solid plan for ensuring affected individuals can afford to take advantage of changes made in the treatment delivery system, any plans made will likely be for naught.
If you or someone you know needs help overcoming opiate addiction’s effects in your life, please don’t hesitate to call our helpline at 800-584-3274 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addiction counselors.
Nowadays, most everyone knows of someone who’s been affected by opiate addiction, though the addiction itself may not be plainly recognizable. With addiction rates steadily on the climb, a good majority of people have been affected by opiate addiction’s effects in one way or another.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, opiate-related overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 with a death rate of 91 people per day from opiate overdose alone. Along with a handful of other initiatives, the 21st Century Cures Act seeks to invest resources into ensuring anyone who needs opiate addiction treatment can get it.
The question as to whether these efforts can stop opiate addiction will likely hinge on the degree of planning that goes into rooting out addiction and actually taking the steps to get it done.
What is the 21st Century Cures Act?
The 21st Century Cures Act, a piece of legislation approved by the U. S. Congress in December 2016, seeks to take steps towards eliminating some of the biggest health concerns this country faces. According to WhiteHouse.gov, the 21st Century Cures Act lays out five initiatives:
- Making opioid addiction treatment available and accessible to those who need it
- Investing in cancer research
- Investing in brain disorder research and personalized treatment care
- Mental health care reforms and suicide prevention programs
- Opening up the lines of communication between the FDA and consumers
In effect, the 21st Century Cures Act will allot $1 billion dollars in state grants to fight opiate abuse and fund ongoing opiate addiction research studies.
The Planning Process – Opiate Addiction Treatment Initiatives
Dealing with today’s opiate addiction epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach that meets the problem at the places where it tends to grow and thrive. This means identifying areas where rates of addiction can be reduced or stopped altogether.
According to the Committee on Energy Commerce, the 21st Century Cures Act lays out a comprehensive plan for improving government’s response to opiate addiction. Plan initiatives include the following:
- Creating new programs that provide alternatives to imprisonment for people struggling with substance abuse disorders
- Allotting $12.5 million for community crisis response systems to address substance abuse and mental disorders
- Expanding the federal drug court system, which is designed to treat those dealing with substance abuse problems
- Provide additional training for recovery support workforces in areas of drug prevention and treatment
- Integrating substance abuse and mental health treatment systems
While the 21st Century Care Act makes ample provisions for meeting community needs and filling treatment gaps, the future of the Affordable Care Act can present yet another roadblock to its effectiveness. If those who need help have no financial means to cover opiate addiction treatment costs, few will be able to benefit from the changes the 21st Century Care Act brings.
Getting It Done
Considering it took nearly three years for Congress to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, one must wonder how long it will take to put it into action. According to Georgetown University, the Act itself is nearly 1,000 pages in length and has few actual deadlines for completing the many initiatives contained in its pages.
This, coupled with the changes and growth that must take place within the Food & Drug Administration for the Act to be carried out means it will likely take more than a few years to actually implement this new piece of legislation.
Opiates, the family of drugs that are all descended from the forebear of opium and the poppy, include legal drugs like the painkillers morphine and oxycontin as well as illegal drugs like heroin. However, regardless of which opiate someone has been using and the reasons why, it is likely that the cessation of even short term use will result in withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately for users, there are a variety of opiate withdrawal treatment methods that can help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Detox and Withdrawal
The reason opiate withdrawal treatment is so often necessary is because of how addictive these drugs can be to both the body and mind. When the body gets used to the presence of an opiate, and that opiate is removed or stepped down, this leads to a variety of different symptoms. More mild symptoms include cold sweats and shakes, as well as anxiety and insomnia. More extreme symptoms like nausea and vomiting, loss of libido and others tend to come in the latter stages of withdrawal. As the body attempts to establish equilibrium in the absence of the opiate, the results can often be uncomfortable and painful. In some cases of heavier use they can be lethal, causing shock and the shut down of the body. It’s for that reason that opiate withdrawal treatment is such an important part of the detox process.
Step Down Opiate Withdrawal Treatment
One method that ensures withdrawal won’t be as taxing on the body is to use a step down method to lower the amounts of opiates in a user’s system until it gets to a level that can be easily handled. Often this is done with a less addictive replacement, such as methodone for heroin users. The goal is to slowly introduce less and less of a drug so that, while the withdrawal symptoms are irritating and uncomfortable, they aren’t life threatening. It’s like jumping off a curb, rather than off a roof.
Treating the Symptoms
Opiate withdrawal treatment tends to focus on controlling the symptoms of withdrawal. For individuals that have light symptoms from only mild or light use, over the counter medications are often enough to get the job done. For those with more severe symptoms and more fragile states of health however, doctors will prescribe specific medications to take the edge off of withdrawal symptoms. Patients should always follow the doctor’s instructions.
Opiates, a family of drugs that includes morphine, heroin Oxycontin and a large number of other painkillers, are commonly used both for medicine as well as abused for recreation. However, when someone needs to have his or her system purged of these drugs, an opiate detox is what’s in order. Of course, for those who are going to go through the experience, it’s important to know certain things.
How It Works
The human body naturally cleanses itself of substances, if given time, and opiates are no different. For individuals who have only experienced light opiate use, such as through normal medication, there is often not a need for a detox as such; all they have to do is wait and the drug will be filtered out of their systems. This doesn’t mean there won’t be some discomfort and light opiate withdrawal symptoms, but no medical assistance should be required. The reason is that, while the body might crave opiates, light use hasn’t led to a crippling reliance on the drug.
For those who have been using opiates longer, or in greater amounts, the physical dependance is greater. So, rather than just experiencing withdrawal pangs and lighter symptoms like sweating, nausea and goose flesh, opiate detox for addicts can have much more serious consequences. In many cases detoxing too suddenly can lead to shock, damage to the body and even death.
Gradual Opiate Detox
For more extreme cases of opiate addiction and usage, it’s important to step down usage as part of the opiate detox. Additionally, it’s important that medical personnel be on hand in case anything does go wrong, or the opiate user goes into shock. It’s for this reason that many detox programs for individuals with more intense usage habits tend to be in-patient centers rather than out-patient ones.
The theory behind gradual opiate detox is that it allows the user to step down slowly, getting his or her body used to the smaller and smaller amounts of opiates in its system. Once the body has reached a much smaller level of opiates, then usage can stop altogether safely. It’s akin to coming down from the roof of a tall building, and just jumping off a few stairs. It’s safer, easier and while it might be scary, painful or uncomfortable, it’s much less likely to result in permanent damage or in death that a sudden stop would very likely cause the user.
Opiates are powerful painkillers, and as a family these drugs are derived from opium. However, in addition to sharing the same genetic makeup, these drugs also tend to come with very similar sets of side effects for people that use them. While the drug affects different users in different ways, there are some side effects that are more common than others. For instance:
Perhaps the most common of opiate side effects, nausea affects a large number of people who use opiates as painkillers. It’s been suggested by studies conducted at the Stanford School of Medicine that nausea, like many other opiate side effects, is an inherited quality. The genetic predisposition actually affects the severity of these symptoms in many ways, according to scientists.
Tolerance and Addiction
One of the most dangerous side effects of opiate use, a patient’s tolerance and addiction to the substance can start very quickly depending on predisposition. Because opiates are so addictive, with even prescribed use often leading to uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms, doctors are very, very careful when giving these drugs to patients. In fact, many doctors will sit down and go over the telltale signs of addiction with patients when discussing opiate side effects just to prepare them for what might be coming.
Dehydration is not one of the direct opiate side effects, but a decreased desire to drink water is. It’s for this reason that patients who are given morphine or other types of opiates may be carefully monitored for dehydration, or put onto an IV drip. This last option may be especially attractive for patients who are also suffering from nausea, which can make drinking fluids seem like a particularly unattractive thing to do.
Loss of Sexual Interest
While a decreased libido may not be the worst of opiate side effects, it is a very significant and noticeable one. This is true of all opiates, legal and illegal, that use tends to decrease desire, and in cases even render the act of sex much more difficult for those who do try to participate.
Perhaps the worst, and in many cases dangerous, of opiate side effects is withdrawal. Technically a series of effects that come when patients stop using these drugs, withdrawal is almost always an issue because patients are going to stop drug use sooner or later. In many cases withdrawal has to be managed to be safe.