Addiction Ha No Favorites Addiction comes in diverse forms. This is so because the word addiction describes an overpowering impulse to engage in an act or consume something. This is a phenomenon that describes the abuse of medications and other substances when discussing drug addiction. Drug addiction is a condition that puts an individual in a state where they cannot regulate the use of any drug or medicine. It is also widely described as substance use disorder. Drugs range from prescriptions to alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and the visible damage done by these drugs is not enough motivation to stop using them. Addiction to substances is a serious issue as it tends to pass from one generation down to another within a bloodline. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is a phrase that describes how features of individuals, physical or nonphysical, pass down generations. Perhaps you have your grandmother’s eyes, your father’s nose, or your uncle’s resilience.
Unfortunately, the ugliness of addiction also can find its way into the reality of offspring of a lineage. The struggle extends beyond that of
the addict to that of their immediate family and children are especially vulnerable. About 12% of children in the United States of America have a parent that is struggling with addiction.
At the National Council Mental Health and Addictions Conference, it was expressed that children exposed to parents struggling with addiction and substance use disorders often use compliance as a form of coping mechanism. This is a survival skill that often has negative effects in adulthood.
Opioid and fentanyl addiction
Substance abuse and addiction is an epidemic that has been around for the past two decades. This is evident from the increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States. Talking statistics, since 2000, drug OD deaths increased 17500 in 2000, to 67400 in 2018. Opioids, prescription painkillers, and synthetic opioids are complicit in these numbers. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans were lost to the prescription opioid epidemic with about 1.7 million people in the United States were diagnosed with drug use disorders resulting from prescription opioids. In 2011, prescription opioid was declared an “epidemic” as this became a trend across the country. It has rapidly evolved from a prescription opioid problem to illegally trafficked and sold opioids, including synthetic opioids.
Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that have long been used to treat a variety of pain levels and types. It is a chemical that reduces the strength of pain signals reaching the brain by binding to receptors in the brain or body. Opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are prescribed by doctors to treat acute and chronic pain which is described as pain that persists over three months.
Back in the 1990s, Pharmaceutical firms convinced medical practitioners that using opioids for pain treatment will not cause addiction. This, backed by a deliberate effort to ‘wage war on pain’, opioid medication prescriptions increased. This surely led to abuse of these drugs before their addicting effects were recognized. According to some certified sources, about 21% to 29% of people on opioids
prescriptions eventually abuse it, about 8% to 12% of patients abuse opioids prescribed for chronic pain. Prescription painkillers abuse gave birth to about 80% of heroin users.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has five key aim strategies to combat the opioid epidemic:
• Expanding access to treatment and rehabilitation programs
• Promoting the use of overdose reversal medicines
• Improving public health surveillance to better understand the epidemic
• Supporting cutting-edge pain and addiction research to promote better pain management approaches.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a wing of HHS, is the leading organization in the research and treatment of opioid disorders. Francis S. Collins, the NIH Director, announced the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative in April 2018 at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. A cross-agency coalition to enhance and facilitate scientific solutions to combat the opioid crisis.
Data on opioid overdose deaths at the national level show that the drug overdose epidemic is in many stages. From 2000 to about 2011, natural and semi-synthetic opioids (i.e., prescription opioid medicines) were the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths, however, the fatality rate has since mostly plateaued. Since around 2011, heroin overdose deaths have been on the rise, and heroin was responsible for the highest overdose fatality rates in 2015. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths, such as fentanyl, have risen substantially since 2013. By 2017, the incidence of synthetic opioid overdose deaths was roughly double that of all other drug categories.
Although most states have witnessed significant increases in opioid overdose mortality since 2000, the scope of the problem and the types of opioids most commonly related to overdoses vary considerably among states, as they do throughout the country. Overdose fatalities from heroin and synthetic opioids are disproportionately high in the
eastern United States, although states with high prescription opioid mortality rates are distributed across the country. Non-opioid drugs, which are becoming more related to the opioid crisis, also show regional differences, with eastern states having the highest cocaine fatality rates and western areas having the highest psychostimulant death rates.
Law Enforcement attitude towards the epidemic
This opioid crisis is becoming an all-hands-on-deck situation, with special units set up to handle such cases. However, law enforcement agents are ready to rule almost every OD case as just another figure added to the statistics. This is evident in the mindset some of them carry, which is expressed in such statements made to the victim’s loved ones about how the OD is expected since the victim was an addict. This sort of approach tends to dump all moral judgment on the victims, who through the addiction usually won’t see themselves as victims.
Such a mindset shows that there is not much effort to scrutinize each individual case. This lack of proper scrutiny and investigation has led to a rising market of street-level opioids. These street-acquired opioids are dealing most of the damage which accumulates to the thousands of deaths every year. On different occasions, law enforcement agents do not probe the circumstances around most overdoses which could easily get street dealers apprehended. While the Covid pandemic ravaged on, these street-level dealers built their market base, and it has been projected that the number of casualties to the opioid crisis will drastically increase after the lockdown. This is not to undermine the efforts of law enforcement but to point out that the real damage is being done by these street-level dealers. This is so because they sell without prescriptions or doses, just as much as is ordered. This helps addicts access these substances without control or monitoring.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” many police officers believe. They recognize the negative consequences of making
arrests for illegal opioid possession, such as further destabilizing the lives of people with opioid use disorders, increasing the risk of fatal overdose, contributing to the social stigma surrounding opioid addiction, and overburdening the criminal justice system.
Hopefully, this documentary “Addiction Has No Favorites” will show a human part to each overdose case, an ended life that affects a countless number of people that have been touched by that life. A need for the problem to be approached on the level where the overdoses occur most repeatedly. A need to treat the small-time dealers like the big-time importers of these substances.
Author: Cristina Frisby is a well known and seasoned professional in dealing with those that suffer from mental health ,substance abuse and addiction issues.Cristina is one of Florida’s leading addiction treatment specialists, an experienced behavioral health professional and the founder of Comprehensive Recovery Solutions (CRS), an online Opioid Treatment and Recovery Coaching program.