Every day, more than 200 people in the United States die due to a drug overdose. The statistics are truly alarming and the country is faced with a fully fledged overdose epidemic. It is a serious national crisis that not only directly affects a large population of the general public but also has serious repercussions over social and economic welfare.
What We Know About the Opioid Crisis
In hopes of finding a viable solution to fight the epidemic, researchers have gathered valuable information about this pressing issue. Here’s what you need to know about the crisis.
- In less than a year (from July 2016 to September 2017), the Midwestern region has experienced an overdose increase of around 70%.
- More than 80% of people who end up using heroin start by abusing prescribed drugs.
- Out of all the people prescribed opioids, roughly 21 to 29 percent are likely to misuse it.
Based on these statistics, it is imperative to take serious actions to deal with the issue and prevent it from spreading further. In response to the crisis, the authorities are trying to find ways for improving access to treatment and recovery services. However, this one thing cannot turn things around for everyone. In order to deal with the situation, ERs are now offering anti-addiction medication to their patients.
ER physician Zachary Dezman believes that offering drug addiction medicines to patients in the ER is long overdue and that it is definitely the right thing to do. Since people struggling with drug addictions are generally weaker and in poorer health than the general public, it is imperative to provide them with care and medical help in the ER. He added, “If they need addiction medicine — and many do — why wouldn’t we give it to them in the ER? We give them medicine for every other life-threatening disease.”
On the other hand, some people see things differently. Doctors and hospital administrators are worried that offering drug addiction medicines in the ER will allow addicts to exploit the system. The immediate relief will only attract drug-seeking patients who will take up the valuable attention and effort of doctors along with limited resources like hospital beds.
The approach is debatable but recently, things have changed. Previously, even when the overdose epidemic was killing more than 200 people every day in America alone, most hospitals avoided offering any sort of addiction-related treatment to the addicts in the emergency room. At most, they offered ibuprofen and sent the patient on their way with the contact numbers of local addiction treatment clinics.
However, a number of hospitals have now started offering addiction treatment services for those admitted in an emergency due to withdrawal symptoms. They take the liberty to start the patients on highly effective anti-addiction medicines like buprenorphine to alleviate the symptoms and provide relief to the patients as soon as possible.
Effectiveness of Anti-Addiction Medication in ERs
Buprenorphine was first approved by the FDA in 2002 as a potential treatment for opioid addiction. Over the years, the medicine has proved to be twice as effective as non-medicinal therapies. It has helped addicts turn their lives around and adopt a healthy lifestyle. The ER medicine works well because it alleviates the symptoms of withdrawal and dulls the drug craving in patients without inducing the “high” state that is prevalent in substance abuse. When taken daily by mouth, Buprenorphine can greatly help addicts beat their substance dependency.
A study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine concluded that addicts who are offered anti-addiction medication in the ERs are two times more likely to engage in treatment for their addiction after a month as compared to the individuals who were given referrals for the addiction treatment centers.
Eric Weintraub, an associate professor of psychiatry at University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, is one of the pioneers in the practice of offering anti-addiction drugs in the ER. In an interview about the effectiveness of the approach, Eric said, “We’ve learned that certain places are conducive to engaging patients in treatment. One of them is the ER. The other is the criminal justice system. We need to grab those opportunities and offer patients effective treatment when they’re ready.”
Talking about this approach to fighting addiction, Mr. Weintraub explained that ERs experience a wave of addicts, usually stemming from a single bad batch of fentanyl. These cases should not be conflated with the individual cases of overdose.
While in Maryland, more and more hospitals are offering addiction treatment in the emergency rooms, some other states are using a rather different approach to deal with the same situation. For example, “safe stations” are popping up all around New Hemisphere. The approach involves setting up access points for addicts where they can seek addiction treatment. According to a study, the safe station setups can bring a decline in deaths due to overdose by about 21%.
The stigma associated with addiction has started to wane and doctors are now more than willing to help addicts and provide them with immediate medical attention in the ER. Experts believe that if this movement involving offering anti-addiction drugs is a success in Maryland, it may be adopted all around. In an interview, an emergency room specialist states, “If you really want to see overdose deaths come down in the United States. Getting treatment with buprenorphine has to be easier and cheaper for people with substance use disorders than getting heroin and other opioids on the street. And what could be easier than walking into an ER and getting started on buprenorphine?”
If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding addiction and forms of treatment, reach out to us today. Scottsdale Recovery Center offers some of the best recovery aid in the country, and our medical professionals are here to ensure you leave our facility better than you came.
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