To say that the country faces a dilemma with regard to the opioid crisis is an understatement. A more appropriate description of the scenario would be to say that we are losing a generation. Unfortunately, each year the number of overdose deaths continues to climb. In 2017, there were more overdose deaths than the entire loses of the Vietnam war. In the midst of this crisis, there have been some major revelations regarding medications that can help.
The new quick fix to the opioid crisis thee days seams to be Naloxone or better known by its brand name; Narcan. According to an article by CNN (2017), “for each fatal overdose, there are about 30 non-fatal overdoses.” This is largely due to the introduction of the drug naloxone. CNN also went on to report that between 2005 and 2014, the rate of opioid-related emergency visits increased by 99.4%. The article then reports that about 35% of those saved from an overdose death by Naloxone were dead a year later from an opioid overdose. In the words of Dr. Scott Weiner, the author of the study and an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s hospital, “It doesn’t treat the underlying problem.” So how does one treat the underlying problem during this opioid crisis? If the medicinal approach is not enough, then what does one do? That is exactly what the remainder of this essay addresses.
People need to remember that medication and our medical industry is not designed to fix problems, it is designed to manage symptoms. When someone is hit with Narcan, the emergency may be taken care of but the actual problem is only managed for a short period of time.
Time and time again, it has been said that the more treatment an individual suffering from substance use disorder receives, the greater the likelihood of successful recovery. Dr. Sharon Stancliff, an expert on opioid overdose prevention and the medical director of the non-profit Harm Reduction Coalition states that it is important to get people, “engaged in treatment as soon as possible.” It is also important to remember that “treatment” is also being driven by the medical industry…they want to manage symptoms for about 30days or until the insurance company decides you are stable enough to leave.
But what happens to that age group of 18-34 years old, who have not been able to live independently due to the onset of this crisis? Who have no life skills, have never held a job, have never budgeted or shopped for themselves. What happens to them after 28-30 days of intense residential treatment? This where a combination of structured sober living and lower levels of care in treatment come in. When a long term integrated approach, one that encompasses life and occupational development, a stable and supportive living environment, and potentially clinical services, are all brought into the equation- the outcome suddenly seems much more promising. One single facet of these components is simply not enough, as lacking one often leads to the failure of the plan in its entirety. During this opioid crisis a fully integrated approach is needed. This is why it so vitally essential to incorporate the use of each of these variables into the continuum of care.
Kounang, N., (2017, October 30). Naloxone reverses 93% of overdoses, but many recipients don’t survive a year. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/30/health/naloxone-reversal-success-study/index.html