How The Opioid Epidemic Impacts Me
There is indeed an opioid epidemic happening in the United States. I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that far too many people are being lost to opioid overdose deaths. This is tragic, horrible and must stop. Steps do need to be taken to reign in these senseless deaths.
Where I start to differ is in the seemingly established “solution” that is being used popularly for this tragic problem. You see, I am a pain management patient who takes opioids. Thus, I am a person who is taking the medication legitimately, as it is intended by the doctors and manufacturers of the drug. I have multiple chronic progressive autoimmune diseases. I also have Fibromyalgia, arthritis and asthma – all of which leave me in intense chronic pain. Because of all of these illnesses, my pain management doctor of 4 years has prescribed me opioids, among other drugs, for the problems.
So, I have my own issues with the press on the “Opioid Epidemic” as it is being called and sensationalized in the press. If we want to combat the actual problems that we are having in this country we need to stop taking the medications away, stop attacking the patients who are taking these medications, and instead go after the doctors who prescribe them irresponsibly. The media needs to stop treating these tragedies as headlines.
Let me explain to you how opioids have impacted my life. I am home-bound and have been taking opioids responsibly for 4 years. I have never run out of my medication before I was due to. I have never taken more of my medication than was prescribed by my doctor. I have never given anyone any of my medication, ever. I do not drive under the influence of my medication. I do not make important decisions while on my medication. This is called responsible opioid use, and yes, it does exist.
Let me explain to you how opioids have also affected me life. I have a family member, whom I love dearly and was my best friend growing up. He is now a drug addict and alcoholic. The day that I cut him out of my life was the day that I found him overdosed in my bathroom with a needle in his arm. Had I not found him he would have died. So, I very much know both sides of the opioid coin.
The opioids that I am on now are called Dilaudid and OxyContin. “Oxy” for short, and as it is called when it is sold illegally. There is a very specific reason that I am on OxyContin. I was forced to switch to it from a safer, less street-sold drug called Opana ER. You see, the government and drug companies have declared that Opana ER is too dangerous as it is being sold on the street under fake names. So, forced to stop taking the better Opana ER medication, the closest available thing besides that was the OxyContin. So, yes, this means the “War On Drugs” took a safer, better medicine, away from me which instead forced me to take OxyContin. Does this sound to you like the measures that we are taking to combat opioid use are working to you?
We need to stop treating drug addicts as criminals and start treating them as the sick addicts that they are. They’re not monsters, they are sick – just like anyone else with an illness. Start getting them help and there will be less addicts, which will mean less deaths from drugs! Instead of sending them to jail for possession – send them to a treatment program!
Another serious part of this problem is the media. The sensationalized media is not accurately documenting this crisis – as they have a moral imperative to do (that is there actual job!). They report all opioid drug deaths as one number, skewing people’s perceptions. The number of deaths from overdoses are very different numbers indeed when you break them down by the substance that they overdosed on. Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, 14,446 were heroin related, 3314 were methadone, 7,663 were methamphetamines, 10,619 were cocaine, 14,427 were natural and semi-synthetic opioids. What this all means is that when they say there were 64,000 overdoses in 2016 they are skewing what you believe and treating the facts the way they want them. Instead, they should be reporting that there were 14,427 deaths – but most of these deaths are caused by one drug alone – Fentanyl. Fentanyl is being obtained illegally by drug dealers, who are then cutting and selling heroin and other drugs with the Fentanyl inside it. Doing this skews the data even more, as these overdoses aren’t reported as heroin overdoses (as they actually were), but instead Fentanyl ones!
Plus – why crack down on the end users, when you can crack down on the supply instead? Why are you taking legitimate drugs that help people off the market (Like my Opana ER) when instead you could be cracking down on the fake quack doctors who write tons of bad scripts? Every single doctor that prescribes controlled substances is registered with the DEA. They are all provided an ID number that is used on every controlled substance script that they write. Every script that is filled by their patients is logged, by the ID number, with the DEA when the pharmacy fulfills the order. So what does all this mean? The DEA already has all the information that they need to help stop the epidemic, they are just so under-funded and under-staffed they don’t have the manpower to do it. So instead our Senators and Representatives put on a show of making crazy laws that help no-one and do nothing to actually get to the root of the problem.
Is 14,427 overdoses per year too many? Of course it is. Any preventable death is one too many for me. But, we can go about this is a smarter and better way than we are currently doing and maybe, just maybe, we can stop the problem without hurting others who need these drugs to live, needlessly.
Note: All statistics taken from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates)