28 thousand. It’s a number that you remember, especially when you consider that it’s the number of deaths caused by accidental overdoses in 2014, which is the most recent year we have solid statistics documented. More than half of these deaths were related to prescription drugs.
These are daunting numbers, but working together could be the game-changing move that the country needs to eradicate the opioid epidemic and it’s something that President Obama has been dedicating a good chunk of time to during his last few months in office.
He joined a group of panelists at the National RX Drug and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia late last month and guided a solution-based discussion on what should be done and what will be done to lessen the impact that opioids are having on our country.
“[President Obama] helped shine a spotlight on the epidemic. With the group of influential leaders speaking on this issue at the same conference, it spoke to the level of urgency surrounding this issue,” Hale said.
So, what exactly happened? What did they discuss? Here are the highlight points:
Dr. Leana Wen is an ER doctor and mentioned the number of addicted people she hasn’t been able to help due to lack of resources. One patient, in particular, came to her every week asking for treatment and there was nothing that could be done. “What so many of our patients need is treatment, addiction treatment, at the time they’re requesting it,” she explained.
Obama explained that one of the most important things that we can do for this problem is to reduce demand and the only way to do that is if we provide treatment and to approach it as a public health problem instead of a criminal one.
Concentrating on Doctor Education
This works hand in hand with reducing demand. In order to reduce demand, we also need to focus on providing more education to clinicians on the disease of addiction and give them the knowledge and resources that they need to handle patients that struggle with a substance use disorder. The new CDC guidelines are meant to contribute to this solution as well.
Overdose Prevention Carried by EMT’s
In addition to providing more education and training to doctors all over the country, it’s also important to give them the resources that they will need to deal with addicts and offer the best possible solutions to help them. Training the appropriate people from EMT’s to doctors and school nurses to teachers on how to administer Naloxone can help contribute to overdose prevention substantially.
While it’s easy to place blame and point fingers, there are a lot of contributing factors to why our nation is currently struggling with a heroin epidemic. The summit gathered the appropriate people from all corners in one place to discuss the best way forward. It’s great to feel hopeful as we move forward in our endeavors to help eradicate the stigma as well as the disease of addiction as a whole.