By Hayat Srour

The Opioid epidemic has flowed into many conversations around the US including the “RIPL-sphere” (meaning within the atmosphere of the Respiratory and Immunolofy Project Laboratory of Larkin University). Whether it was someone you know suffering with “pain-killer” addiction, or the news reporting on the lives that have been taken by opioids. The purpose of this blog is to shed light on both sides and present information on opioids and the effect it has on America.

Opioid Epidemic Map

Source: https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2017/opiates-prescription-pain-medication-information.html

Opioids are made to mimic the chemical structure of a natural occurring plant called opium. Opioids can be legally used in a controlled setting for pain relief. Physicians may prescribe opioids in course treatment for patients with chronic pain, major injury or surgery, certain cancers, and other pain inflicting conditions. Legal opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol; the illegal form of opioid is heroin. Misuse of opioids has led to the epidemic, they have the potential to be harmful when used for recreation (to get high), with alcohol, or using a prescription that is not the patients.

Opioid Stats

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/guidelines_at-a-glance-a.pdf

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 40 opioid prescription-related deaths occur a day and since 1999 there has been over 165,000 deaths related to prescription opioids. In 2013, there were 249 million prescriptions written by healthcare providers click here for more information. Illegal selling, easy distribution, and production of opioids are also on the rise. This is a result of the addictive nature opioids play on patients who are prescribed the medication and once they are no longer prescribed the medication, they find the need to obtain the drug elsewhere (and possibly in another form). It is likely that opioids have become a pressing issue and somewhere the healthcare system lost control of a drug that was easily accessible and abused by Americans nationwide.

Opioid Guidelines

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/guidelines_at-a-glance-a.pdf

In 2016, the CDC released a guideline for primary care physicians based on studies for prescribing opioids as a line in treatment for chronic pain. This guideline was expected to pave a path for health care providers and reduce the risk of opioid misuse. Ultimately, the guidelines lead to hard roadblocks put into gear by legislators, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical chains. The guidelines led to denials of filling and coverage of medications required for patients with pain. These roadblocks not only harm patients with pain-related conditions, but it also puts physicians in unwanted spotlight. Physicians can be red flagged as over-prescribers without consideration of a patient’s medical condition.

Opioid Guidelines

Source: https://www.change.org/p/congress-ease-the-dea-s-grip-on-doctors-allowing-chronic-pain-patients-to-get-the-medications-we-need

With the opioid epidemic came conflicting and sensitive contributing factors. Physicians take an oath to treat patients but there is conflicting factors and regulations that hinder the tenet of nonmaleficence. The CDC set guidelines in aims to establish a sense of conscious prescribing behaviors for healthcare providers across the nation. This can control the number of opioids circulating the nation but there must also be a conscious understanding that there is a population of patients that indeed need opioids to have a normal functioning life. Until this understanding is adopted, the practice of patient care will continue to suffer.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from addiction, feel free to click here for additional information.

Hayat Srour

About the author -- Hayat Srour is a recent graduate of the M.S. in Biomedical Sciences at Larkin University College of Biomedical Sciences. Hayat is also a Research Assistant and Lab Manager in the RIPL_Effect Research Team under the mentorship of principal investigator, Dr. Félix E. Rivera-Mariani.