The Opioid Overdose Crisis is a serious national public health concern. Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, and the highest drug overdose death rates are in West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the US is $78.5 billion a year, which includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
So how did this happen? Traveling back in time, pharmaceutical companies in the late 1990s reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. As a result, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates and misuse of these medications grew. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose (prescription opioids, heroin, and illegally made fentanyl).
Aside from the overdoses, devastating consequences include the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects babies born to addicted mothers, due to opioid misuse during pregnancy and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C due to the increase in injection drug use.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing its efforts on improving access to treatment and recovery services, promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs, strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance, providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction, and advancing better practices for pain management.
Gatti Pharmacy currently offers NARCAN® Nasal Spray which is an opioid overdose-reversing drug. It is a prefilled, needle-free device that is sprayed into one nostril while the patient lays on their back (can be repeated in second nostril if patient is still unresponsive). In Pennsylvania, family members, friends, and responders to a potential overdose victim can access this medication without a prescription at Gatti Pharmacy. Many insurances cover this medication with little to no copay.
More good news is that new data shows that the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled in the U.S. fell dramatically last year. They showed their biggest drop in 25 years. New studies also suggest that medical marijuana could help quell the ongoing opioid epidemic. There was a decrease in opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid in states that legalized medical marijuana.
Furthermore, a yearlong study offers new evidence against using prescription opioids for chronic pain. In patients with stubborn back aches or hip or knee arthritis, opioids (such as Vicodin, oxycodone or fentanyl patches) worked no better than over-the-counter drugs or other non-opioids (such as Tylenol and ibuprofen) at reducing problems with walking or sleeping.
If you know of a family member or friend who is at risk of overdose, let us know today. Additionally, we recommend you have NARCAN® Nasal Spray on hand. It is covered by many insurances, and the Gatti Pharmacy Team would be happy to answer any of your questions.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
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