The Insights to Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are a group of chemicals that are naturally produced in the opium poppy plant and work in the brain to cause a range of effects, including pain alleviation in some cases. Opioids are either prescription medicines or illicit substances like heroin. Prescription opioids are commonly used to relieve moderate to severe pain by blocking pain signals between the brain and the body. Opioids can cause people to feel relaxed, cheerful, or “high” in addition to controlling pain, and they can be addictive. Opioid addiction has become a long-term epidemic in the United States, endangering public health, economic productivity, and national security.
The Scale of the Epidemic
Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths using opioids has climbed by more than sixfold. Opioid overdoses killed almost 50,000 people in 2019, the most recent year for which complete data is available, more than seven times the number of US military personnel killed in the post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the CDC, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths would have risen to 69,710 by 2020. Between 2015 and 2017, the opioid mortality rate contributed to an unprecedented three-year reduction in life expectancy in the United States; following a brief respite, life expectancy fell again in 2020.
The Socioeconomic Consequences
The opioid crisis is wreaking havoc on other public health sectors, with a high incidence of hepatitis C, HIV, and other infections, mainly due to the use of sharing needles. Meanwhile, if moms use opioids while pregnant, they risk passing their addiction on to their children. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of newborns who suffered neonatal abstinence syndrome, or withdrawal symptoms caused by medicines they were exposed to while in the womb, increased by more than 80%. A rise in the number of kids in foster care is likely due to the opioid problem.
Role of Pharmacists in Opioid Epidemic
Pharmacists play a variety of responsibilities in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Several studies’ findings show that pharmacists can help patients by providing adequate pain management, using PDMPs, providing opioid overdose prevention training, and doing medication reviews and counseling, among other things.
Safe Hands Pharmacy pharmacists are aware of their roles and responsibilities, including counseling patients on opioid risks, dispensing naloxone, educating patients on opioid storage and disposal. They also utilize prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), provide opioid deprescribing, and provide addiction rehabilitation resources.