This week brought still more news that the opioid epidemic in the United States continues to rage unabated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the increased number of emergency room visits for opioid overdose that occurred from 2016 to 2017. The latest report sends a clear message that not enough is being done to combat rapid opioid overdose deaths and the broader opioid epidemic in this country.
New CDC Report Highlights Troubling Trend in Opioid Overdose
Due to the nature of data collection and analysis, CDC figures on drug epidemics and other public health problems often lag months or years behind the present day. Now, with families across the United States looking for answers, the CDC released a report with the most up-to-date information about opioid overdose rates across the country.
The CDC report examined emergency department visits and hospital billing data from July 2016 through September 2017. During that 14-month period, an estimated 142,557 were suspected opioid overdoses. This reflects an increase of 5.6% per quarter, with rates jumping the most in the Southwest, Midwest, and West. Although the opioid crisis has long been viewed as a problem predominantly in rural America, large metropolitan regions showed the largest increases in overdoses. Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maine, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri showed particularly large jumps in the opioid overdose rate. For example, in Wisconsin, rates more than doubled from July 2016 to September 2017.
Clare Waismann, Administrative Director of the Waismann Method for Opioid Treatment, expressed grave concern about this continuous increase in overdoses. “Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the number of people overdosing on opioid drugs. Sometimes, even multiple times on the same day. “Mrs. Waismann attributes the overdose increase to the lack of effective detoxification and accessible mental health assistance. She continued, “The widespread of naloxone has helped save many lives by reversing an overdose, but it is not a solution for opioid addiction. If people are left untreated, they are likely to overdose again. Unless we are able to use this time in the ER to assess and offer an effective treatment plan, the opioid crisis will continue to grow.”
The Effects of an Opioid Overdose on Families
The latest figures from the CDC highlight the lagging response from public health officials to meaningfully impact the opioid crisis. Because the report focused on emergency room visits, one positive interpretation of the findings is that family members may recognize the signs of opioid overdose and help their loved one get prompt treatment. This is essential, as promptly contacting emergency services helps providers administer life-saving medications that can reverse an overdose.
Unfortunately, the report also highlights ways in which the public health response to the opioid crisis continues to fail. The rise in ED visits due to overdose mirrors other figures from the CDC showing a sharp rise in overdose-related deaths in regions around the country. The opioid crisis is not confined to a single region or type of person. Families must know that anyone, whether young or older, rich or poor, well-educated or less educated and of any race or ethnic group, may suffer from opioid addiction.
Combating the Opioid Overdose Crisis
The marked upswing in opioid overdoses in this country has taxed emergency resources in regions hit hardest by the crisis. It is encouraging that the wider availability of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that reverses an overdose while it happens, has saved many lives. “Unfortunately, the lack of treatment resources leads to a "revolving door" problem in which a person overdoses, is taken to the emergency room, receives the care necessary to stabilize his or her medical condition, and is discharged to free up space for other acutely ill patients.” Mrs. Waismann comments.
“Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are not being given the tools and resources to effectively help these patients. Once discharged, opioid users return to their former habits and look for drugs to feel better and numb their emotional pain. Although naloxone may have saved their lives, it also rapidly induces withdrawal which may lower their tolerance. Premature discharge places the most vulnerable individuals at a higher chance for a second overdose, compounding their risk of death,” she continues.
To effectively address the opioid crisis, emergency departments must change the way they operate. Rather than stabilizing the patient to prepare for a swift discharge, ER doctors could admit patients into an inpatient unit where they can have a chance to be individuality diagnosed. Once there, a team of psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers would provide a comprehensive assessment and design a treatment plan that involves medical detox in a safe, supportive environment followed by mental health support. “In addition to providing a solution instead of a temporary band-aid, this treatment approach can also save money. Rather than a costly revolving door of individuals overdosing multiple times, requiring multiple hospital visits, affected individuals could get the care they need to undergo detoxification and focus on maintaining sobriety.”
One thing is certain -- upholding the status quo no longer works. People struggling with opioid addiction and their family members continue to suffer from the inadequate public health resources offered to emergency departments. We must find a way to break the cycle by offering truly life-saving treatments; not just naloxone, which reverses an overdose but does not address the underlying pain fueling the addiction. Only by investing in comprehensive, effective treatments will we fight back against the opioid overdose crisis.
The Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists has been at the forefront of medical detoxification and Rapid Detox for nearly two decades. By providing treatment in a full-service hospital, the Waismann group can effectively and safely manage withdrawal. The treatment also reduces intense cravings for opioids, which are a leading cause of relapse. Visit www.opiates.com to learn more about the Waismann Method opioid treatment options.