Maybe you’re aware of the opioid epidemic that has been taking over the U.S. with no end in sight. Opioid addiction is a disease that affects millions of Americans; the number of opioid-related deaths in the United States has almost quadrupled since 2010 and continues to increase. This epidemic does not discriminate. People from all age groups, ethnicities, genders, orientations, classes and professions are at risk.
In 2017, our country’s approach to the drug crisis was changed in a substantial way when the President declared the opioid epidemic a National Public Health Emergency. As of then, the government granted $1.8 billion to fight the epidemic.
Facilities like detox centers, rapid detox centers, and medication-assisted treatment centers have been slowly popping up across the country. But, this hasn’t seemed to stop the epidemic from continuing to spread across the nation. 7,000 Americans are treated each day for opioid-related issues. Opioid drugs are also responsible for 115 deaths per day in the U.S.
Where It All Begins: Prescription Pain Treatment
Maybe you got hurt at work, had surgery, underwent cancer treatments, suffer from chronic pain, or got into a car accident and then your treatment provider prescribed you pain medication. It is often overlooked how easily this type of treatment can spiral out of control and turn into opioid dependency.
The makeup of the receptors in your brain begins to change more easily the longer that you have been dependent on an opiate. This in turn makes it easier for the individual to fall deeper and deeper into a dependency as the body loses its ability to produce endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller.
Because their body has lost its ability to produce endorphins the way that it used to, an addict will typically feel pain at a higher intensity than others. Looping them back into the vicious cycle of chronic pain and turning to opioids as the only treatment that provides relief.
How We Look At Opioid Addiction
Addiction is not something that people choose willingly, it is an illness and should be thought of as such. Until we change and modernize the way we think about substance use disorders and how we treat them, we won’t be able to make a significant change in the spread of this illness that continues to sweep our nation.
Although science has proved otherwise, addiction is oftentimes viewed as mental weakness. This thought process is the same one that has gotten the opioid epidemic to be as bad as it is today. Proving the point that if we don’t change the way we think about addiction, we won’t be able to create different results moving forward.
The Evolution of the Epidemic
Over time, the drugs have begun evolving and becoming even more dangerous than before with the increase in synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. Most of these illicit opioids come from illegal drug manufacturers, unlike the pain relievers coming from the pharmacy after being prescribed to you by your healthcare professional.
In fact, 59.8% of all drug overdose deaths that happened in 2017 were caused by synthetic opioids; which was a 14% increase from 2016. As these highly potent, illicit drugs become more and more available, shouldn’t we be striving to discover a more effective treatment for this illness?
What is holding us back from taking a deeper look into the treatment of the physical and neurological functions that are occurring during drug dependency, rather than only treating the patient based on their mental state?
The typical rehab center is setting people up for failure by ignoring the physical and neurological aspects of an individual’s addiction. Research has shown that relapse rates are so poor that it isn’t unusual for an addict to go to rehab 3-4 times and still relapse as soon as they leave because they don’t have what they need to stay on track.
And then you have the medication-assisted treatments… their solution to an opioid dependency is to treat it by prescribing other forms of opiates to reduce the cravings. But is the problem really being solved if all you’re doing is replacing the old problem with a new problem? Just treating the symptoms & side effects of an individual’s addiction is not enough to be considered a solution, instead, it is leaving the individual with an increased risk of relapse. What we need to do is treat the core of the problem.
An Individual With An Opioid Use Disorder
If you have ever experienced addiction or loved someone with an addiction, you know that it is not simply a weakness or a choice that they are making. Anyone can fall victim to this epidemic, and it is painful to watch someone you love to continue down that path and through that vicious cycle with no effective solution available to them.
Asking someone who has an opiate dependency to continue going through a detox treatment, suffer withdrawals, and then relapse over and over again is just cruel. This vicious cycle has altered the physical makeup of the addict’s brain, and it will take more than that to convert the brain back to its pre-addiction state.
We will not be able to conquer this national health crisis until we change the way we think about the victims and what successful treatment and recovery look like.
The Most Common Populations That Have Fallen Victim To Opioid The Opioid Epidemic
Anyone is at risk of falling victim to addiction, but there are some populations of people that researchers have identified as more likely to experience dependency.
Oftentimes, veterans are prescribed pain medication by their health care providers as a treatment to relieve symptoms after a combat injury. Because veterans are so vulnerable to chronic pain, they are also more susceptible to addiction. PTSD and other mental health problems often contribute to drug dependency in veterans and can lead to self-medicating with alcohol, opioids, and other illicit drugs like heroin.
Because society still often discriminates against people within this community, the psychological distress increases the tendency to self-medicate; putting them at an increased risk of addiction.
Younger adults between the ages of 18-25 years are some of the most vulnerable individuals when it comes to opioid abuse. As a teen, they may begin to experiment with drugs, but it only becomes worse in college as substance abuse has become more normalized than ever during this epidemic. During their college years, young adults may also find themselves in situations where they self-medicate to sedate anxiety or are pressured into drug use during social situations.
The aging process is often associated with several medical disorders and pains. This makes prescription pain medication readily available to them. However, opioid use in senior citizens is riskier because they may be taking several medications for the treatment of various health problems, increasing the risk of side effects and negative interactions.
Young Children and Adolescents
Although it may seem unlikely, children are not immune to opioid dependency. This risk is increased in children whose parents suffer from or have suffered from addiction. This risk is especially present in children born to a mother that was addicted during pregnancy. Pregnant mothers that are addicted to opioids can pass their addiction along to their unborn baby through the chemicals that pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the babies. This is also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The opioid epidemic has also affected rural communities, as opioid prescriptions are given out more frequently in these communities and healthcare access tends to be somewhat limited. There are also fewer treatment options available in these communities for those individuals that are suffering from opioid dependency.
Putting An End To The Opioid Epidemic
As a society, we need to stand up against this epidemic and work together to find a solution to the ever-changing opioid crisis. The lives of people from all walks of life are being thrown into chaos in a system that fails to acknowledge the severity and depth of drug addiction.
In order to move forward, we need to recognize that the problem is not caused by the failure of the individual but instead is a chronic illness and should be treated as such. Once we can come together and do this as a society, we can make significant strides toward finding a modern solution to medically treat the national opioid epidemic and putting a prevention plan in place.
The ANR Centers are focused on doing just that. Over the last 40 years, Dr. Andre Waismann has developed a more reliable, modern approach to treating opioid dependency and returning the brain to its pre-addiction state. The results that ANR (Accelerated Neuro Regulation) has achieved for over 24,000 patients worldwide are incomparable to those of any other existing opioid treatment. The Physicians at ANR won’t stop until they have successfully defeated the opioid epidemic crisis.
Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.
Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.