No easy fix when it comes to opioids

There is no doubt that opioid abuse is a serious problem in this country. The overdose rates from both prescription and illegal drugs has risen to staggering levels in the past few years alone.

That being said, “fixing it” may be something that’s easier said than done because like it or not, some people have a legitimate need for pain killers.

Chronic pain can (and does) affect Americans of every age and walk of life and whether it be due to illness or injury, it is the number one cause of long-term disability in the U.S.

So, what’s the difference?

Well, acute pain is sudden: a hand on a hot stove, a stubbed toe, a bee sting. Chronic pain is persistent. It can last for weeks, months and years.

Statistically speaking, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain estimated to cost society between $560 and $635 billion annually, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies.

Yes. That’s a problem.

Unfortunately, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder and an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.

The institute states around 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Again, a problem.

In response to increased regulations, many doctors have decreased (or stopped all together) prescribing opioid medications. While this may seem like an easy fix, remember, there are literally millions of Americans out there who are still suffering.

Should the actions of addicts determine the fates of those under a doctor’s care and who responsibly take their medications as prescribed?

Should we ban sodas because some people drink too many and develop diabetes? Should we ban cars because some people are bad drivers and wreck and kill people?

Where do you draw the line separating an individual’s needs versus society’s?

There are no easy answers to this crisis America is facing but one thing is for sure, it’s not going away on it’s own.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 64,000 Americans died by overdose in the first nine months of 2016. Now compare that to the (record number) 52,404 people from the year before — the entire year.