According to new research aimed at curbing adolescent opioid use by better understanding the opioid epidemic in general, for the last 3 years, and for the first time in nearly 70 years, life expectancy in the US is going down for all major racial groups. Drug overdoses are a primary reason for this, and opioids are far and away from the leading drug that causes overdoses in this country. Rising numbers of people addicted to alcohol and suicide were two other major factors given for the decline in life expectancy. All three of these issues are closely related, as substance use disorder is a key factor in many suicides and in the lives of many people struggling with other mental health disorders. The authors call on a response from public health officials that expands focus to include children and young adults in prevention efforts that seek to limit new cases of opioid addiction and identify people with substance use disorders that are associated with opioids. They also call on health officials to ensure access to effective opioid treatment, while at the same time ensuring access to opioid medications for people in pain. In Alabama rehabs and recovery centers, there has been a consistent uptick each year in people served, and in the past decade, the number of people with substance use disorder who have overdosed is exploding due to the fentanyl that is being added to street opiates. People who work at Alabama rehab clinics would also tell you that fentanyl is not just being sold as heroin in the major cities, it is a huge problem in rural America as well.
A large issue that is facing experts who are fighting addiction in adolescents is leftover opiates. These researchers note that opiate medications that were prescribed to legitimate patients are now the gateway for most kids who try an opioid pain killer. Here are the recommendations of the experts when it comes to these left-over opioid prescriptions, as well as other issues,
“How to reduce the number of opioids dispensed, improve methods of disposal in an environmentally safe way, and proactively make naloxone, particularly nasal spray, readily available to patients (and their families) receiving prescription opioids or who are at risk of opioid use disorder are highlighted in this review.”
That last point is particularly important, in my opinion. Naloxone is a lifesaving drug, and it is already being used at record levels by police officers, medical personnel, and other first responders. Alabama rehabs are full, nearly across the board, and unfortunately, the lawmakers of Alabama have historically been slow to take steps to save the lives of people with addiction. Eventually, the opioid epidemic may grow to the point that everyone will have a loved one who has struggled with opioid dependence, but right now it is important that people who use opioids have naloxone nasal spray in their homes. There is no abuse potential for Naloxone, so lawmakers do not have to worry about causing additional problems, they would simply be saving lives by making Naloxone more available. The authors of the study call for Naloxone in the homes of anyone with an opioid medication, and I believe they have a good point, because there have been cases where a child overdosed on a medication from a medicine cabinet, and in those cases, Naloxone could save a child’s life. They also call for Naloxone in the homes of people at risk for opioid dependence, and that is a large group that includes many people in rural Alabama. If you are a person in Alabama looking for rehab and recovery help, please visit the programs page on this website for more information.
By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)
Yaster M, McNaull PP, Davis PJ. The opioid epidemic in pediatrics: a 2020 update. Current opinion in anaesthesiology. 2020;33(3):327-334. doi:10.1097/ACO.0000000000000865