Dispelling Myths: Opioid Crisis
With the opioid crisis still going strong and constantly changing, there are many claims and opinions circulating regarding the problem. Despite increased awareness, the opioid crisis continues to worsen. The life expectancy in the United States has dropped twice in 2015 and 2016 due to the magnitude of the crisis. Although people often believe that the opioid crisis consists mainly of people who use prescription opioids, the number of people who are experiencing opioid use disorder without prescription opioids has also been increasing in recent years. The CDC recognizes three waves of increased overdoses over the course of the opioid crisis: the first wave that resulted from an increase in opioid prescriptions, a second wave due to transition to heroin, and a third more recent wave resulting from an increased use of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.
Myth #1: The best treatment for opioid use disorder is abstinence with no medication.
This perception comes from the perception of abstinence helping some people who struggle with alcohol use disorder. While this method can work for some, there are several other treatments for alcohol use disorder like medications and therapy that are more well-equipped to help different people. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone have been shown to be effective, if not more effective in treating opioid use disorder, than short-term detoxification and rehabilitation.
Myth #2: Reducing Opioid prescriptions will solve the crisis.
While there has been a reduction in opioid prescriptions since 2011 due to a number of laws that states have passed in an effort to deter the opioid crisis, there is a new wave of the epidemic stemming from overdoses. In recent years the number of fatalities due to opioids like, heroin and fentanyl, have sharply increased.
Myth #3: Opioids should never be used for pain management.
Studies have found that opioids are safe and very effective to treat acute pain for a short period of time, about three to seven days, after major surgeries or injuries. However, opioids can be dangerous and addictive over a longer period of time if misused, or side effects may start to arise. There is also a lot of danger in mixing opioids with other medications and drugs, because of how they might interact, potentially being deadly.
Myth #4: Medical cannabis can help alleviate the opioid crisis.
Many believe that with the legalization of medical cannabis, that cannabis will relapse opioids and help with those suffering from chronic pain. There are many different diseases that result in chronic pain, like neuropathy and fibromyalgia, and recent studies have found that cannabis does not seem to be helpful in non-cancer related chronic pain. Studies in the states that have legalized medical cannabis have found no reductions in opioid prescriptions or misuse.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, opioid use disorder, or another kind of mental illness, please feel free to contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections for help! There are many options available to help start you on your way to recovery. You can visit Lifelineconnections.org or call 360.397.8246 for more information.