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Opioid Crisis in America Essay


The U.S. healthcare system has witnessed an increase in the mortality and morbidity rate related to the use of opioid drugs among chronically ill patients and youths. Initially, research experts recommended these drugs as a remedy to reduce pain; however, the continued use of opioids has led to addiction problems; in turn, this has decreased life expectancy in the United States. The scope of this crisis has become alarming because experts speculate that opioid deaths will continue to rise if the government does not invent strategies to counter the situation. Notably, this epidemic is a burden to the public health and the economy because the U.S. spends approximately 78.5 billion dollars annually to cater for addiction treatment. Therefore, this paper seeks to analyze this medical issue in an attempt to find effective pain management practices that will not cause addiction among patients.

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Background Information on Opioid Crisis
In 1995, the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) approved the use of Oxycontin and Fentanyl in hospitals as pain relievers. These medications, which fall under the opioid class of drugs, led to a rise in analgesic prescription after they were declared safe for human use (McGinty et al. 37). As a result, the production of opioids increased and health practitioners began to administer them in high doses to treat pain. Considering that the prescriptions lasted for longer durations, patients developed a dependence on the drugs due to their addictive nature; hence, this increased the likelihood that patients would abuse them. Besides the approval of opioids, the inability to provide addiction therapies and treatment for patients who cannot survive without this medication has contributed to this crisis (McGinty et al. 37). Moreover, the public health neither trained healthcare providers about risks linked to the use of opioids nor regulated its production, a situation that further aggravated the crisis.

Literature Review
Previous surveys regarding opioids show that policymakers no longer perceive the crisis as a pain problem in hospitals but as a national epidemic. Opioid addiction has spread from hospitals to the community because the drug meant for medical use, has become a recreational substance for the youths (Meyer et al. 378). Though opioids reduced chronic pain, the American pain society (APS) remained hesitant about its ability to offer a lasting solution to the medical issue. The body conducted a survey on the effectiveness of opioids and revealed that these medications only blocks patients’ pain for a limited period rather than treating its source (Meyer et al. 381). Therefore, APS recommended physiological therapies because they function better than opioids, but most patients rejected the treatment option since it does not relieve pain instantly.

Theoretical and methodological reviews towards the opioid concern have attempted to utilize different control programs to counter this disaster without success. In 2005, the government stated its agenda to regulate pharmaceuticals and released 60 million dollars in this effect to facilitate monitoring programs that were operational between 2006 and 2010 (Gomes et al. 217). During this period, the health sector formed congressional committees to address the abuse and misuse of this drug; a revelation by the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources committee on voluminous dosage administered to patients triggered this decision. From an economic viewpoint, contributing factors related to opioid production and usage in hospitals include healthcare expenses that account for an estimated 2.6 billion dollars, workplace costs that represent 4.6 billion dollars, and criminal justice expenditure amounting to 1.4 billion dollars (Gomes et al. 217). Existing literature about this crisis shows that opioids are a burden to society’s health and economy.

Research Methods
The research uses qualitative methods to collect information from pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and health databases to determine the intensity of the opioid crisis in the U.S. Precisely, these methodologies include open interviews with pharmacists to determine sales and type of clients involved in the business (Cicero & Ellis 259). The next method is to review consensus statements and clinical guideline in hospitals to identify possible prevention strategies to counter the crisis. Thirdly, analyze the MEDLINE healthcare database to assess faults in previous researches that qualify opioids as pain remedy (Cicero & Ellis 259). The methodologies assess the issue in depth to develop strategies to prevent addiction and death cases that reduce the quality of healthcare in the U.S.

Pharmacists report that during their initial stages of the opioid crisis, health providers were their primary clients who purchased the drugs for medical purposes. Currently, consumers have increased from 1.5 million in 2002 to 2.7 million in 2012 following an increase in the non-medical use of the drug (Pezalla et al. 383). Furthermore, manufacture of the medication has equally increased to match the demand; hence, this has resulted in a rise in addiction treatment cases among pain patients and youths aged between 15 and 24 years. Clinical statements show s that patients overdose on opioids to not only control chronic pain but also for pleasure, which violates the original intention behind FDA’s approval of the medication (Pezalla et al. 383). After an analysis of the MEDLINE database, researchers focused on the short-term effect of opioids and ignored future impacts, which trigger psychological disorders, illness burdens, reduced quality of life, and economic strain for USA. Between 2002 and 2012, research findings from this database confirm that opioid abuse has increased because the current countermeasures are not effective (Pezalla et al. 383).

Analysis of the methods used and results attained shows that the government and the public health sector should combat abuse of the drug, interact with populations at risk, and raise awareness on safe opioid use (Brown & Sloan. 133). To stop opioid abuse among teenagers, health administrators should advise pharmaceuticals against selling the medication to people who do not have prescriptions from doctors, as a way of curbing drug misuse. Individuals suffering from chronic conditions, drug addiction, and cognitive disorders are at a high risk of abusing opioids; therefore, professionals mandated to monitor them should ensure that they do not become dependent on these drugs (Brown & Sloan. 133). The last recommendation advocates for medical communication to train health practitioners on how to handle pain in patients by ensuring they are adequately informed about the risks posed by opioid misuse.

It is evident that the misuse of opioids has affected the U.S. medically, socially, and economically. Notably, the drug was sanctioned to relieve pain and assist patients with chronic conditions; however, it has led to cases of addiction, which has generated numerous health issues. From the research, pharmaceuticals and health providers have contributed to the disaster; hence, health policymakers should have formulated effective restrictions to guide its use before the legalization of the drug to avoid abuse and overdose cases. On the same note, policymakers can endorse laws that regulate the production and distribution of opioids. Hence, the research offers various recommendations to curb the opioid menace.

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Works Cited
Brown Jr, Raeford, and Paul Sloan. “The Opioid Crisis in the United States: Chronic Pain Physicians are The Answer, not the Cause.” 2017, pp. 132-134.
Cicero, Theodore, and Matthew Ellis. “The Prescription Opioid Epidemic: A Review of Qualitative Studies on the Progression from Initial Use to Abuse.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, vol.19, no.3, 2017, pp. 259.
Gomes, Tara, et al. “The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States.” JAMA Network Open, vol.1, no.2, 2018, p.217-232.
McGinty, Emma E., et al. “Protocol: Mixed-Methods Study to Evaluate Implementation, Enforcement, and Outcomes of US State Laws Intended to Curb High-Risk Opioid Prescribing.” Implementation Science, vol.13, no.1, 2018, pp.37.
Meyer, Roxanne, et al. “Prescription Opioid Abuse: A Literature Review of the Clinical and Economic Burden in the United States.” Population Health Management, vol.17, no.6, 2014, pp. 372-387.
Pezalla, Edmund J., et al. “Secular Trends in Opioid Prescribing in the USA.” Journal of Pain Research, vol.10, 2017, pp.383.

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