By Porter Shreve
The Opioid Crisis is a multi-faceted phenomenon, which requires a holistic, systemic approach to take into account the mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of the disease.
First of all, there is a basic need to determine the roots of the problem. Until recently, the medical profession didn’t take seriously the effects of pain-relieving drugs such as prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The pharmaceutical industry, driven by the profit motive, pushed doctors to prescribe medication as a quick remedy for pain. Health insurance companies’ reimbursement policies make it much cheaper for patients to take opioids for pain than to engage in less risky non-pharmaceutical solutions.
Another factor for opioid misuse and abuse are people’s feelings of despair and hopelessness. Folks dealing with poverty and unemployment are vulnerable to drugs, which relieve their mental and emotional distress. Access to and compensation for psychotherapeutic services is severely lacking.
The following are provisions that will enhance the treatment of this world-wide public health crisis;
Retrain physicians and healthcare professionals about pain management and alternatives to opioid analgesics.
More generous health insurance reimbursement for treatment of mental health disorders, including substance use/abuse.
More severe penalties for pharmaceutical companies that misbrand opioids and illegally promote addictive drugs.
Use of medications including naltrexone, methadone to counter addictive response and to enhance relapse prevention.
Counseling for users and significant others to inform about addiction and to address personal, social and other problems that may contribute to their addiction.
Education for parents and school personnel about the opioid crisis and the role and responsibility that they must assume to counter this disaster.