Friday, December 23, 2016

One challenge of fighting the opioid epidemic is that painkillers do their job really well

How respondents say painkillers affect their physical
health and the ability to do their jobs (Post graphic)
One of the biggest barriers to beating the nation's opioid epidemic, which is disproportionately rural, could be that the painkillers do as intended: make the pain go away, says a report by The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation. Also, users see opioids as far less addictive and dangerous than do their household members who are not using painkillers.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has discouraged doctors from prescribing opioid painkillers for chronic pain treatment after a sharp rise in overdose deaths related to opiates ranging from prescription painkillers to heroin and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl," Emily Guskin reports for The Post. CDC Director Tom Frieden told The Post that "prescription opiates are as addictive as heroin."

But the survey of adults who have used opioids for at least two months in the past two years "found that opioid users say the painkillers make a significant difference—92 percent say that prescription painkillers reduce their pain at least somewhat well, including over half (53 percent) say they do so 'very well,'" Guskin writes. "In a separate question, 57 percent say their quality of life is better than if they had not taken the medications."

The survey found "that about 1 in 20 Americans have taken the drugs to treat pain for at least two months over the past two years, representing a significant barrier to curbing the country’s reliance on the drugs," Guskin writes. When asked why they take painkillers, 44 percent said for chronic pain, 25 percent for pain after surgery, 25 percent from pain after an accident of injury, 3 percent for recreational use and 2 percent said for other reasons.

Overall, "34 percent of long-term opioid users say they became addicted to or physically dependent on the drugs (separately, 31 percent say they are dependent, 23 percent say they are addicted)," Guskin writes. "The poll finds that people who live in the same household as a long-term opioid user report a more negative picture across the boar—54 percent say the person they live with is or was addicted to or dependent on painkillers. Household members are also more likely than opioid users themselves to say the painkillers have had negative impacts on the user's physical health (39 percent vs. 20 percent of users) and the user's mental health (39 percent vs. 19 percent)."

No comments: