Will the Election Change Addiction Policy?
by Lisa DiFalco
The problem of addiction is growing across communities nationwide. Accesswire recently released a report on the overdose mortality statistics in the battle against addiction to prescription drugs. The CDC reported that over 47,000 people died from drug overdoses last year in America. This is the highest number of total deaths from drug overdoses on record. Opioid addiction deaths now account for 60 percent of all such fatalities. As the addiction problem is on the rise, what can be done to stem the tide? Lawmakers, politicians, families, case managers, and other health professionals need to take jointly-coordinated steps to make significant strides. The new election with the approval of targeted policies and laws may bring forth the change America desperately needs.
The Costs and the Barriers to Effective Treatment
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, over $700 billion are lost every year due to crime, reduced work productivity, and health care needs related to the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Those under the influence of addiction are less able to be productive members of their communities and can unintentionally place themselves and those that they love in harm’s way. That is outside of those that have overdosed. What can be done for those who have an addiction and want treatment? Treatment and recovery is not an easy path and not equally accessible in all communities. Some issues for those seeking treatment include:
- Treatment options for addiction are not currently available in all communities. Those in need require accessible treatment options from prevention to interventions and recovery support services.
- Opioid addiction, including heroin, has been found to be the fastest growing drug problem in America. More deaths are attributed to drug overdoses than to motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and homicides.
- Our nation’s youth receive mixed messages regarding substance abuse. Few children, adolescents, and young adults are provided with evidence-based prevention services.
- The criminal justice system is overwhelmed with people being convicted on nonviolent drug charges.
Some individuals are more susceptible to addiction than others and in Problem Behaviors Can Signal Risk in Prescribing Opioids to Teens, nonmedical opioid use history in teens provides a potential red flag that such individuals may be engaged in harmful substance-abuse related behaviors. 1 in 8 of high school teens used opioid medications without physician instruction or supervision. Such findings demonstrate that physicians must act conservatively when considering prescribing an opioid analgesic to a teenager. Behavior analysts and behavior technicians can help provide additional support to their students, families, and other health professionals in building awareness of problem behaviors that may lead to an addiction. Physicians and parents must be aware of problem behaviors that can indicate the need for more supervision. Problem behaviors include:
- Opioid use for objectives outside of pain relief
- Ingestion of opioids with other drugs
- Opioid administration through a non-oral route.
Exposure to opioid use outside of a physician’s orders appears to increase the possibility that nonmedical use of opioids again. Such students once exposed to opioids in such a situation were:
- 4 times more likely to take opioid medications to get high or feel good
- 4 to 5 times more likely to buy prescription drugs from relatives, friends, strangers, or dealers.
How a child or student is exposed to opioid use appears to be strongly related to how opioids could be used in their future, with those first exposed to physician-ordered opioid use as likely as students that had never used an opioid to engage in dangerous behaviors. Education and prevention of opioid misuse is one way to begin to tackle this growing crisis.The addiction problem is growing nationwide. The election may stem the tide. Click To Tweet
What Changes Could the Next President Initiate?
It is time for specific policy change. It appears that the staggering new overdose epidemic is motivating politicians to change policy. Rainbow Coral Corporation CEO Kimberly Palmer said:
“Those numbers are certainly grim. However, this overdose epidemic appears to have moved the government to act. Lawmakers now have several bills in the works to combat this scourge. RBCC is doing its part with solutions like Naltrexone, a durable, long-lasting anti-addiction protocol that can help break the overdose cycle, and through our proposed program of opening low-cost, inclusive treatment centers to help the 80 percent of opioid addicts currently shut out of the system. There’s a way out of this and RBCC wants to be a leader in that effort.”
What policies could be put forth to address the growing addiction crisis in America?
- Full funding of programs such as the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant must continue in order to maintain a crucial safety net for individuals requiring services not currently covered through insurance.
- Access to benefits for those suffering with or in recovery from an addiction. Medicare, Medicaid, commercial insurers, and FDA-medications should provide the means for those looking to address their addiction.
- Broadening the Excellence Act to all states for quality integrated addictions care for all who need it.
- Improvement of federal funding levels for prevention efforts within communities. Target schools and college campuses to educate children and young people on healthy decisions involving substance use and decrease the likelihood of high-risk behaviors.
- Reduction in the overconsumption of alcohol through an increase in alcohol taxes.
- Stronger education programs on the harmful effects of marijuana on the developing brain.
- Prevention of access to marijuana for individuals who are underage through tougher enforcement strategies.
- Support of “ban the box” to reduce the stigma of prior convictions for candidates seeking employment.
- Provision of a safety net of health benefits, housing options, and employment support to those recently released from prison or on parole.
- Establishment of additional drug courts to help communities provide treatment to nonviolent offenders rather than incarceration in prison.
- Prevention of recidivism with continued leadership at ONDCP that addresses prevention and treatment along with other strategies.
These methods are some of the ways that communities can address addiction at home and prevent youth from engaging in dangerous behaviors. 2016 Presidential candidates are talking about addiction but concrete policies are necessary to make a dent in the addiction problem. There are bills on the table that require bipartisan support. Healthcare professionals working on addiction may see laws and policy change as soon as the next election. Current political talks, recent findings, and the growing addiction epidemic demands notice and address.