New data shows the opioid epidemic is getting worse,even with the steps being taken to combat the problem, overdoses are on the rise. Most of the action taken by government and elected officials centers around cracking down on the prescribing of opioid pain killers, limiting the number of pills on the market. There are also measures being taken to increase access to Naloxone, the life-saving overdose reversal drug. The drug has been shown to be effective in saving some lives, but not effective enough to prevent America’s opioid problem from growing out of control.
The primary reason cited for such a drastic increase in overdoses is the presence of fentanyl. Users purchase drugs on the street, intending to buy heroin, and are instead given a deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl. When it comes to fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids, a dose as small as a few grains of sand can prove lethal.
Even more concerning, it is speculated that the new data could be underestimating the number of overdoses, as the data from the study only shows overdoses treated in hospitals. Many people who overdose never end up in the emergency room at all. “Overall as a nation, we are failing to adequately respond to the opioid addiction epidemic”, says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.
One suggestion to better addressing the opioid crisis involves further integrating addiction treatment into the healthcare system. Emergency room staff need additional training to ensure people admitted for drug related issues are getting follow-up addiction treatment. In most cases, even when someone is admitted and treated for overdose, as soon as they are medically cleared they are discharged without any recommendation for treatment or follow-up.