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Opioids and Infectious Disease

by | May 7, 2018 | Drug Prohibition

Caring for drug abusers bridges political differences.  However, not all agree.  Many believe these individuals should be left to their own will and that impeding on that choice runs in contrast to Libertarian or Conservative beliefs.  As for the left, many are silent about those struggling with addiction, although just as many die each day from “gun violence” as those from a narcotic overdose.

The current opioid epidemic is a serious health concern.  It impacts the mentally ill and sexually abused, and the men and women selflessly serving the country.  Now, findings by the Health Resources & Service Administration link the epidemic to outbreaks of infectious diseases, significantly impacting numerous communities.

Why It’s a Major Health Crisis

Towns across America have experienced at least 500% increases in instances of Hepatitis C, with 75% of new cases associated with intravenous painkiller use. There have also been surges in syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other illnesses.

Many physicians believe the culprit of the epidemic to be the overprescribing of opiates.  Indeed, last year the country witnessed the most massive health care fraud crackdown in U.S. history, as reported by Liberty Nation.   Health care providers were caught distributing medically unnecessary narcotics to patients for financial gain.

Despite the aggressive investigations continuously underway by the Justice Department, two million citizens presently suffer from prescription opioid addiction. Also, more than twelve million Americans misused these medications within the past two years.

Who are the Patients?

In contrast to popular opinion, a large percentage of offenders are not merely “bad seeds.”  About eighty percent of male and female illicit drug users were sexually or physically manipulated during childhood, according to LN.

According to National Institutes of Health, one in four individuals with a severe mental illness, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction.  In fact, those with schizophrenia are 12 times more likely to die from an overdose compared to the general population.

Military veterans also have high rates of abuse upon their arrival back home, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  The U.S. is currently abandoning the needs of those who risk their lives for our freedoms.

As for prescription narcotics, the most prominent addicts are those aged 18 to 25.  LN also notes that overdose rates for heroin have skyrocketed among young adults in recent years.

Plans to End the Epidemic

Some states have begun a “Harm Reduction” system in specialized clinics.   The program combines infectious disease prevention, medication-assisted treatment, and mental health counseling.

The International Journal of Drug Policy, a peer-reviewed medical publication, found that such programs have been successful in reducing infectious disease resulting from needle injection.  Although the outlook is promising, the application is not widespread enough to confirm whether findings are significant.

Police departments across the country have implemented another strategy.  Officers are carrying naloxone, a medication that immediately blocks the effects of those experiencing an opiate overdose, as reported by LN.  Since its implementation, naloxone has revived more than 26,500 people.

The campus organization Students for Opioid Solutions acknowledge the need for drug education at universities.  They to begin a grassroots movement to teach the public about such signs and symptoms, enabling the identification of those in need to help save lives.  They also propose a Good Samaritan clause to protect students from legal harm after reporting or giving aid to someone experiencing an overdose.

Speaking of legal harm, 60% of Americans believe the government should focus more on treatment than incarceration.  Resultingly, many are aiming to end mandatory minimum sentencing.

First introduced by former President Bill Clinton in his 1994 Crime Bill, mandatory minimums substantially increased incarceration times for repeat offenders.  However, there is no evidence to suggest that the bill has provided any benefits.

Under the current law, the annual cost to the U.S. related to health care, crime, and loss of productivity resulting from illicit drugs is over $193 billion.  Furthermore, those struggling with addiction have a seventy-seven percent rate of recidivism.  Focusing on treatment over incarceration likely decrease the billions spent per year on care for patients.

All citizens deserve support.  Education is perhaps most important for ending and preventing the epidemic for this generation and the next, as all citizens work to create a better, healthier future.

What are the thoughts of our readers? What methods do you believe are best to handle the current health crisis?

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