It’s fair to call it an epidemic at this point. The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are grim enough, as the epidemic puts almost 7,000 people a day into emergency rooms across the United States, and 44 Americans die from it every day. In 2013, around 2 million Americans – more than the population of Phoenix – got exposed to the epidemic. The epidemic isn’t HIV or some new exotic disease that emerged from outside the U.S., but the prescription painkiller abuse is driving these numbers.
Painkillers usually contain opiates or synthetic derivatives, which are addictive. Addicts face a stark choice: get help or continue using and lose everything. Few substances get their teeth in patients as deep as opiates, making treatment difficult. Fewer than 1 million of the 2.5 million patients that need treatment actually receive it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Many programs suffer due to funding issues. Regulations often govern the use of medications that can help addicts through withdrawal. But the relief has finally arrived.
Giving treatment a boost
There can be hurdles in treating opiate abuse. Counseling and behavioral therapy are powerful, proven methods in treating addiction. Many patients experience painful and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when receiving treatment for painkiller addiction.
Medicines like buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid that can help addicts through withdrawal, play important roles in treatment. But because some of these medicines act like opiates themselves, there are restrictions governing their use, the environment in which they’re dispensed and the amount of prescriptions written. In buprenorphine’s case, doctors certified to dispense the medication can only write 30 prescriptions for the drug in the first year. They can write buprenorphine prescriptions for up to 100 patients after the first year.
Last year, the HHS announced plans to change those regulations. At a meeting involving representatives from all 50 states on dealing with rising opiate abuse rates, HHS Secretary Silvia Burwell said that there was a need to increase access to buprenorphine, “which can help us treat opioid use disorder when combined with psycho-social support.”
The White House also announced plans to increase funding for drug treatment and train more doctors who prescribe opiate painkillers last year. The administration announced $500 million in funds authorized by the Affordable Care Act will go to community health centers to expand, renovate and construct new services for their clients. Additionally, community partners of the HHS department’s Office of Rural Health Policy in 13 states also received around $1.8 million in grants. The HHS estimated that only about 40 percent of the nation’s 1,300 health centers provide substance abuse services.
The Arizona Detox Helpline is committed to helping anyone dealing with addiction in finding a healthier path. If you or someone you know is fighting addiction to painkillers, please contact us as soon as possible at 866-593-8453. We can help you find an appropriate detox and treatment program.