The Opioid Epidemic

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The Opioid Epidemic

Joe Kottke, Senior Staff Writer

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According to the Trojan Tribune survey, eighty percent of seniors are aware of prescription drugs stored at their house, or somewhere accessible to them.
The excessive prescribing of opioids has resulted in negative repercussions, as opioid abuse has become a large dilemma for nations including the United States and Canada, according to pain and palliative care physician Joel Carter, M.D. According to Carter, the concern with consumption of non prescribed medications is great, due to prescriptions varying according to the age, previous opioid records and kidney function of the patient.
Even more hazardous, said Carter, is the fact that new users are not accustomed to the dosage as the patient would be. According to Carter, the problem began decades ago and persists due to lack of understanding.
“A number of factors contribute to excessive opiate use like false assumptions about the risks of opioid dependency and addiction,” said Carter. “The influence of the pharmaceutical companies that produce and market various brands of opioid pain medications plays a role as well.”
The Trojan Tribune survey reported that seven percent of seniors have taken prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them three or more times. Half of that percentage accesses the medication from their home. It is undoubtedly a problem, according to Carter, with opioid related deaths surpassing those from motor vehicle accidents. According to internist Jamie Jackish M.D, some of the most frequently prescribed opioids include Oxycontin, Dilaudid and Percocet. “I only give them enough to tide them over until they see their usual primary doctor, usually 30 or less,” said Jackish. “However, primary care doctors might give about a month to three month supply at one time.” Jackish said that it is very possible for people to obtain hundreds of pills from their doctor. According to the Trojan Tribune survey, four percent of females have taken unprescribed opioids three or more times, where two percent of males have. The use of opioids has a high mortality risk, especially when mixed with alcohol, said Carter, who referred to this as the ‘Opioid Epidemic.’ If used correctly, opioids can have positive outcomes, said emergency room Scott Gunderson M.D. They have critically expanded the treatments of pain in problems such as bone fractures, kidney stones, and cancer, said Gunderson. When in significant injury or trauma, the opioid receptors within the body become active. These receptors are what the opioid medicines target to help relieve severe discomfort, according to Carter. Sadly the medication is not always used correctly, and reported by Carter, opioid abuse ironically accumulates more pain due to malfunctioning of the body’s pain receptors. Also reported by Carter, physical dependence and addiction are commonly associated with long-term abuse, as is improper functioning of the brain’s reward system which can lead to deterioration of the brain. Gunderson emphasized the gastrointestinal problems opioid abuse can cause, like constipation and nausea. He also cautioned that abuse increases tolerance, leading to use of more opioids to achieve the same effect. To avoid any accidental or intentional usage of unneeded medication, it is best to dispose of them, reinforced Gunderson. DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) authorized collectors such as pharmacies, or take back programs sponsored by local law enforcement are the best solution, suggested Jackish. It is important that the medication is not dumped down the drain. Although National Prescription Drug Take-Back events are the best option, Gunderson recommended mixing the pills with something gross; kitty litter or coffee grounds, and putting them in a plastic bag to throw away, if there are no other alternatives. Most narcotics labels say whether or not they are safe to flush down the toilet as well.

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