The number drug overdoses have been dangerously increasing. In 2008, drug overdoses became the number one cause of accidental death in the U.S. In 2014, drug overdoses are responsible for killing almost 50,000 Americans.  

The rise of opioids, which include prescription painkillers and heroin, is particularly responsible for the addiction epidemic we are facing today. Between 2010 and 2014, heroin overdose tripled.

addicaid-needleSeveral attempts have been made to improve this condition. New guidelines have been created for prescribing opioids that shorten the length of treatment and deny refills. In addition, the FDA has enforced stronger warning labels that highlight the most serious risks.

Despite the law’s attempt at curbing this issue there needs to be a change in mindset. Within the realm of addiction there needs to more attention on prevention instead of treatment. We need behavioral and lifestyle interventions that discourage people from using and abusing painkillers. For example, teaching patients to only take painkillers when absolutely necessary and to properly dispose of them if unused. Additionally, doctors should verbally enforce the risks associated with taking painkillers and follow-up on the patient’s use of them.

heroin PSA poster - AddicaidWhile prevention remains more effective than treatment, addiction is still a huge issue. People are not receiving the proper medical treatment for their addiction. A person diagnosed with a chronic disease receives evidence-based care that is personalized based on their genetic history. Genetic history is a large factor left out of addiction treatment plans even though 40-60% of substance abuse is attributable to a person’s genetic makeup. The most thorough approach would include cognitive behavioral therapies, medication, and supporting relationships.

We need more personalized methods for dealing with addiction and more accessible care. People have extremely limited access to addiction treatment even at its minimum level. Long-term intensive care facilities are seen as the norm but cost an excessive amount of money with very little data to prove their success. The rehabilitation industry in itself  generates $35 billion a year. This suggests that effective treatment might not be a priority to these facilities.

number of US drug poisoning deaths involving heroin - Addicaid-2

An improvement for the future would include specialized treatment for addicts at the level of chronic care. High-quality care with performance based reimbursements should be the standard for treating addiction, as they are for physical health issues.  Behavioral health and physical health need to be treated alike. Until we equate treatment in these two areas it will remain ineffective.

 

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