Use Or Abuse - America's Growing Opiate Crisis
The map is a visual representation of Wilmington North Carolina. The city with the most overdose death rates due to opiates in the nation. Wilmington and it's county as well as state have voted against the legalization of medical marijuana multiple times and is considered "coincidental" by state legislators to have the highest opiate death rate in the country.
The Opioid epidemic in North America has been prevalent for quite a long time and recently has started to become addressed by the federal and state governments, in accepting that there is an epidemic that needs to be dealt with. Similar situations could be found in the early 1900’s during the peak of the opioid craze worldwide. Often times regarding opiate addiction and abuse, questions such as, “How can the government play a role?”, and questions regarding the extent of what could possibly happen to their state, county, city or even family. The opioid epidemic is in part a result of misdiagnosis by medical professionals, and environmental aspects that may impact the stance of opiates by the individual affected. The most important question is, how do we solve this issue?
Along with the government playing a role, people are curious about what may be able to counteract the addiction, whether it be another less addictive type of drug or a non-narcotic substance. There are arguments supporting both sides, some people are against the use of medical marijuana to help while others believe medical marijuana as well as other non-addictive substances are the key to eradicating the epidemic. Generally, when there is a medicine used that contains a harmful chemical and they find a chemical that could be used as a replacement that has less risks, they do it. One doctor argues that it is the same situation with medical marijuana. The states that have legalized both recreational and medical use of marijuana have a lower overall percentage of overdose related deaths when it comes to the use of opiates.Medical marijuana has way less risks than opium would, and the use of it would help tame this epidemic. However, other doctors argue that the use of marijuana could be more of a gateway drug for some patients, that will eventually lead to them wanting more and more marijuana and possibly other drugs. If this were the result then it would only fuel the epidemic, causing more problems for more people.
The government should take steps to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs for personal use in order to reduce the harmful effects of the opioid epidemic. When the label “criminal” is finally removed from addicts, an opportunity arises to get them the actual help that they need, reducing the overall number of casualties of the epidemic. The thought process that’s being used is that since the addicts are going to be using the hard drugs no matter their legality, the government should provide clean, safe methods to ingest the drugs. Adding a syringe vending machine in places like pharmacies could allow the government to offer addicts easily accessible information and help if they choose to seek it out. It could also prevent the spreading of infectious diseases among the addicts, prolonging their opportunity to seek out help. The ultimate goal should be to reduce opiate-related deaths, and this method is already being implemented to do just that in Nevada. Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District says, “Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community," contributing to the argument that making clean syringes easily accessible is a move in the right direction for overall harm-reduction. The legalization of cannabis will also play a main role in trying to assist addicts in kicking their opium addiction. Dr. Ira Price says, “Cannabis and opioids work on similar receptors... It allows us to decrease the number of opioids one uses and decrease that harm profile they have. So in clinic, at Synergy, we exchange them, and we help patients come off opioids by using cannabis,” stating cannabis has a definite use in the medical industry, especially when dealing with opium addiction. The main opposition to these propositions is the United States Federal Government. The DEA continues to pursue the failed war on drugs, and recently placed cbd oil, a non-psychoactive extract of cannabis used to treat injuries such as seizures, as a schedule 1 drug. If America wants to move forward in the medical industry and deal with the opium crisis, it has to make changes.
The spread of use and addiction of opium over the last few years has many affects on many different people. One demographic this drug is affecting is that of families. In 2016, a mother overdosed in a dollar tree, right in front of her two year old daughter. A video of the incident was shared on the internet, and the daughter can be seen trying to get her mom up while crying hysterically. The mother lost custody of her child at the time of the video, showing the exact way that this issue is affecting families. It is possible that if ways for this mother to seek help were more available, then the whole event could have been avoided. This does not just go for this mother, there are parents everywhere suffering from addiction and losing their children because of it. It has been reported that substance abuse by parents has become the leading cause for the need of foster homes. If there were more available options and care for those suffering from addiction, it is possible these families would still be together.
Recently, doctors and other medical professionals have been the scapegoat for this issue, but it is not entirely true. Recently in the state of California a law was passed requiring every medical professional besides pathologists and radiologists to take a course on pain management, the purpose was to discuss ways in which to make the patients feel more comfortable, and opiates were the main option discussed. By prescribing opiates, the doctors are attempting to help out their patients in ways they deem suitable for the condition they may be in. “When I’m seeing patients [and their families] afterward, I don’t have the records in front of me,” she said. “I’m just making sure they’re OK.”) This coming from a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that she is concerned with the health of the patients she treats first and foremost before taking a look at other aspects which can help prolong life long enough to be comfortable in certain scenarios before death.