Combating the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

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Addiction can be defined as the fact or condition of being dependent on a particular substance or activity. ( Google Dictionary) Recently, drug addiction, including the use of opioids and heroin has been on the rise. In the year 1999, death as a result of opioid overdose was recorded at 5,000 deaths, since then, in 2017 72,000 deaths were recorded as a result of opioid overdose. (National Institute of Drug Abuse) Opioid addiction is not only affecting one community or age group, but many groups of people of different race, age and financial standing. In order to combat the opioid and heroin addiction epidemic, the public policy that uses medicated assistance should be used in all cases of drug addiction rather than just solely using counselors, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and social workers to solve the problem.

The opioid addiction epidemic started to come to light to society in the mid to late 1990’s and is an issue that continue to negatively impact society today. Along with the 72,000 plus deaths due to opioid overdose, society has many celebrity deaths due to painkiller and opioid overdose. CNN, reports a list of twelve celebrities who have died from a drug overdose. This list included celebrities such as Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Elvis Presley, Prince,Cory Monteith and just recently in 2018 singer Malcolm Miller. (CNN) Celebrities are typically people who children aspire to be like, and due to the opioid epidemic children are being exposed to the frightening effects of drug abuse and possibly a very young age. The drug addiction epidemic is one that has impacted so many lives of the people and public good and is therefore, the reason why a public policy is used to handle this issue.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse “the primary issues in society that led to this epidemic included the significant rise of opioid analgesic prescriptions and the lack of health system and health provider capacity to identify and engage individuals, and provide them with high-quality, evidence-based opioid addiction treatment.” The increase of the opioid analgesic prescriptions were an issue in and of itself, however, now with greater technology and research we became aware that the opioids in the 1990’s were being prescribed as pain treatment in high risk cases which lead to opioid abuse and addiction. Therefore, the lack of technology and medical education in the 1990’s has caused the epidemic of opioid addiction that has been increasing since then. Giving patients in the 1990’s access to high volume painkillers such as opioids, opened the doors to abuse and addiction due to the drugs effects.

Due to these skyrocketing numbers of reported deaths as an effect of drug overdose the federal government has taken steps to put a policy in place to put a stop to this ever increasing number and get victims of drug addiction access to treatment resources. In April of 2017, a five point opioid combating strategy was outlined. The points in this strategy included topics such as “Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services.” (National Institute of Drug Abuse) The federal government hopes that by making these services more accessible the consequences that are associated with opioid addiction in the fields of one’s health, one’s social standing and economic standing will be subsided or can be avoided. In my opinion, improving access to these treatment opportunities may be helpful in combating the long-term consequences that are paired with opioid addiction.

However, this tactic can only truly be successful if it is offered and accessible to multiple groups of people in different areas and of different financial standings in society. If only the wealthy can afford these programs then it does not effectively combat the opioid issue as a whole. This point in the five point opioid strategy plan also states that with this plan/policy is hopes to “enable individuals to achieve long term recovery.” (National Institute of Drug Abuse) In my opinion, in order to be able to achieve the long term recovery, a program such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Medication Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction (MAT-PDOA) program use is necessary. In some forms of opioid addiction treatment, behavioral therapy such as meeting with a psychologist or therapist will be the sole method of treatment and prevention of opioid use in the future. With the use of the Substance Abuse and

Mental Health Services Administration’s use of the Medication Assisted Treatment(MAT) program a patient gets a combination of treatment through the use of medication and behavioral therapy. The MAT treatment public policy program is formally defined as “The use of FDA approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance abuse disorders.” ( U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- samhsa.gov) With the use of this program three different types of medications are used in this program in order to help with long term drug addiction recovery. Similar, to how a person who is trying to quit smoking may use a leveled amount of nicotine patch rather than smoking an actual harmful cigarette, MAT patients are prescribed other opioids, however, they contain no addictive qualities.

Also according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these prescribed drugs include “Methadone, Naltrexone and Buprenorphine.” These drugs have the power to block the effects of other narcotics if put into one’s system. They also have the ability to help reduce the risk of withdrawal from not having the effects of the addictive opioid on your system. The ability to block the drug withdrawals in my opinion is a main factor as to why the MAT program prescribed drugs are successful. The symptoms of a drug withdrawal include the following, “flu like symptoms lasting up to five days, anxiety or seizures that could potentially last up to weeks or months and depression and or restlessness lasting longer than one week.”(American Addiction Centers)

Addictive drugs such as opioids or heroin create an increase in the users neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin. The increase of these neurotransmitters makes the user feel a false sense or pleasure which to them seems real, this is known as the users “high”. The lack of this pleasurable high feeling sets the user into a state of withdrawal which could ultimately lead the user to continue to use the drug again, so the temporary high can be felt again and the withdrawal satisfied. The feeling that the high gives the user and the negative feeling the withdrawal inflicts on the user causes the cycle of addiction to spiral onward.

The Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program has been proved successful through a series of nationwide surveys. As stated earlier I feel that this public policy program should be kept in place due to its effectiveness in combating drug use. However, I do believe that the policy is flawed in some ways and could benefit from additional changes to it. In surveys “ ninety-eight percent reported that they were opioid addicted participants however, only forty-seven percent of these participants reported that they had availability to the MAT program drugs.” (Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment) Also as mentioned before, I believe that this program should be easily attainable to participate in to all drug abusers seeking treatment.

If a very small percentage such as forty-seven, is the only amount of people who have access to this treatment then it can’t possibly be reaching the whole population of drug abusers seeking treatment to effectively combat the issue. It is later shown through research that the barriers that are causing flaws in the MAT program is due to “lack of funding and lack of medical staff with the expertise to deliver MAT to patients.” ( Journal of Evaluation and Program Planning) Similar to the 1990’s the lack of funds for issues such as drug abuse and drug abuse treatment programs along with the lack of a great depth of medical education is a major cause of the continuation of drug and opioid abuse amongst society. In my opinion in order to truly combat this addiction epidemic the Medication Assisted Treatment program needs to continue to stay in place as a public policy, but an additional policy should be created which helps to deliver more funds to the MAT program and treatment programs and personnel across the board.

The Medication Assisted Treatment program has been used as a method of treatment in a total of “ten million cases of drug and opioid addiction.” (Nursing World) Generally, if a medication or medical program is continuously used it would promote the idea that the specific method must be an effective one in helping the patients who use it. The fact that, MAT has been used as the treatment method in ten million reported cases of opioid addiction supports the idea of it being a successful method to fighting drug addiction.

Doctors, Nurses and personnel of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would be considered to be the groups of people who are in favor of the Medication Assisted Treatment program. It has been questioned as to whether or not doctors really agree and support the MAT program. This question has been answered with yes, because, “The drug that we’re replacing is a dangerous one that will kill you, and we’re replacing it with a drug that allows you to go back to work and have money in your pocket and allow you to live normally again,” said Dr. Stuart Gitlow, past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.” (Stat News) In layman’s terms addictive drugs such as the opioids addicts take and expose their bodies to cause alterations to the body and behavior.

These alterations can be so negative in some cases that the person taking the addictive narcotic can not live or function “normally” or effectively in society amongst their peers. Doctor’s are in support of the MAT program because the prescribed drugs used in this program are one’s that the patient cannot become addictive to or cause behavioral alterations due to the fact that they contain no addictive materials. While many people are in support of the Medication Assisted Treatment program, many people also are greatly not in favor of this program. Many are against this program because they do not realize or believe in the fact that the administered medication used in this program is non-addictive. People have reported that they believe that the Medication Assisted Treatment program is just simply “Giving drugs to drug addicts.” (Nursing World)

In conclusion, the opioid addiction epidemic is one that has profoundly impacted society and continues to today. The public policy dealing with this issue, is one that includes a controversial topic, which is Medication Assisted Treatment(MAT). This program, although it may be flawed is, in my opinion, society’s best chance at curbing drug addiction, getting rightful treatment to abusers who seek help and potentially ending the opioid addiction epidemic for good.

Cite this paper

Combating the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic. (2021, Nov 17). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/combating-the-opioid-and-heroin-epidemic/



How can we fight the opioid epidemic?
We can fight the opioid epidemic by increasing access to treatment and recovery services and by reducing the demand for opioids.
How do you address an opioid epidemic?
The first step is to increase access to treatment for those who are addicted to opioids. The second step is to increase access to naloxone, which can reverse an overdose.
What are the ways in which we can help minimize the negative effect that the opioid epidemic has caused in communities?
The first way is to increase access to treatment and recovery services. The second way is to reduce the demand for opioids through prevention and education initiatives.
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