Saturday, January 6, 2018

Opioids and Hope

Seems like everywhere I hear about the opioid crisis. People are addicted. More people. This is a different kind of drug crisis. Two years ago I had never even heard the term opioid.

So yesterday I attended a meeting about addressing the opioid crisis. I'm beginning to learn what this is all about. The opioid crisis looks like the perfect storm of societal trends coming together to allow an epidemic of addiction like we have never seen.

Here's what I'm learning, and I haven't fact-checked this stuff, so don't quote me as an authoritative source. Some time in the 1990s pharmaceutical companies created a new type of drug that can be used to treat chronic pain. They said that it was not addictive. Boy were they wrong. But doctors began prescribing these drugs because, well, they don't want their patients to be in pain. If pain can be eliminated with a pill, then let's do it. And patients gave their doctors glowing evaluations because who knew that you could have *that procedure* so painlessly?

Meanwhile, the public buys into two dangerous beliefs:

  • No pain is profitable. All pain should be eliminated if possible.
  • Whatever your physical problem, there is a pill for that.
Well, now doctors are realizing that pain meds are causing too many problems. And new regulations limit the during for which a doctor can prescribe opioids. So people can't get their scripts for these pills, and have to look for the meds elsewhere. On the street the illegal stuff works just as well, and it's cheaper. Dope dealers see the growing market, and want to make sure the supply meets the demand.

Mix all these ingredients together, and you get something toxic. That's where we are. It will take a lot of cooperation to turn this around. We need help from law enforcement, drug companies, hospitals, doctors, community organizations, churches, and first responders. At least we are beginning to work together.
There is hope.

Today I saw a friend for the first time in about 15 years. He tells me that two of our mutual friends are dead from drug overdoses. This is hitting home.