The State of the Opioid Crisis in 2022 and What You Can Do

The opioid crisis is still ongoing. Projections indicate that at least 1.2 million people in the United States and Canada will die from opioid addiction by 2030 if no changes are made in the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare space. In 2022 alone, over 69,000 people in the United States have died from opioid-related causes.

How did the opioid crisis start?

The opioid crisis started in the mid-90s when Purdue Pharma received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin distributing the drug OxyContin. The acceptance of this potent drug led to a wave of drug approvals for other similar opioids. When Purdue Pharma initially showed this drug to regulators, they falsely described it as less addictive than other opioids. After FDA approval is complete, it’s typically left up to the pharmaceutical industry to warn about drug risks. Purdue Pharma and other big pharmaceutical firms have failed to educate the public about the danger of opioids.

What Needs to Change?

The pharmaceutical industry needs to curb the influence of pharmaceutical representatives on general practitioners. As the practice currently stands, pharmaceutical representatives often offer kickbacks or incentives for doctors to use their drug instead of opting for another treatment method. While direct money offers are illegal, pharmaceutical representatives usually pay physicians for speaking, consulting, meals, or travel. Other laws must be placed and enforced to prevent these arrangements from occurring. If doctors prescribe medications only as they are needed, this makes it difficult for patients to continue to abuse opioids. Additionally, addiction prevention training should be mandatory for those who work in healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry.

There also need to be further regulations regarding the pharmaceutical representation of drug characteristics. Purdue Pharmaceutical’s representation of OxyContin as less addictive than it is led to widespread prescription of the drug. Even if drugs have passed regulatory measures, there needs to be more transparency both from doctors and pharmaceutical companies regarding potentially hazardous side effects of drugs. While this strategy does not account for the underground use of opioids, it will at the very least curtail direct overexposure to these drugs.

Government and Healthcare Provider Responses  

The government has tasked the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services with performing high-level audits to review fraud in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. Preexisting prevention programs are currently being strengthened, and the Office of the Inspector General is tasked with identifying and holding accountable anyone engaged in fraud while empowering and collaborating with healthcare partners to use education programs and data sharing.

At the individual hospital and clinic level, the Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out a variety of educational materials for healthcare providers to follow regarding prescription drug misuse. They have also provided Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs used by electronic databases to track the dispersal of prescription drugs to various patients. The Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies is another Health and Human Services Internal Program that promotes prevention science at state, tribal, and municipal levels. Another program promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services is National Prevention Week in May, which calls attention to the need to prevent substance use at the institutional and home level. While not all-inclusive, these efforts may still have a positive impact in preventing opioid addiction. Risk assessment and mitigation at the personal provider level are also crucial for preventing addiction before it starts.

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C & A is proud to help you and your family navigate the medical world. We are intentional about providing information to keep you updated on the latest medical news. To learn more about opioid addiction recovery, check out our blog Myths about Addiction and How to Combat Addiction in your Community.

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