Solutions To The Heroin and Opiate Epidemic

Anyone who’s has ever had to suffer through addiction, either their own or a family member’s, will tell you that the current state of addiction treatment available to drug addicts down right appalling and grossly ineffective. And nothing is likely to change without a massive campaign to educate the public with facts and reality, as opposed to the negative propaganda based mostly on lies and exaggerations designed to scare people and dehumanize users. This is a great article that was first published in the book “Addiction on Trial” by Steven Kassels, M.D.

First published on Social Justice Solutions, by  Steven Kassels, M.D. March 27, 2014

“Why is medication management for the treatment of heroin/opiate addiction scorned by so many? According to a recent Boston Globe article, “Heroin Epidemic Exposes Deficiencies In Care System”, Ms. Jacobs, Director of Substance Abuse Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acknowledged, “medications are not used as much as they could be for opiate addictions because of stigmas attached to them, she said.”  I agree, but while we watch endless commercials about the benefits of nicotine replacement medications, or how to treat illnesses such as urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction; I wonder where are the public service announcements addressing the heroin/opiate epidemic and the proven benefits of outpatient cost effective medication management?  Where are the public service announcements that clearly demystify common misperceptions, such as crime increases when there is a treatment center in one’s community. In fact, there is a 50% to 80% reduction in crime by heroin addicts when in treatment.

We read about the blame for the heroin epidemic, but rarely do we address a complex underlying issue – that we as Americans want instant results and we want total pain relief after an injury or procedure.  Injudicious prescribing of pain medications undeniably contributes to the problem, but this is not the only reason we have an unabated heroin epidemic. Other factors include: the war in Afghanistan, which directly led to a surge in heroin production; the reconstitution of Oxycontin pills, so they could not as easily be used to “shoot up” or “snort”, resulting in more persons turning to heroin as a drug of choice; the increased availability of opiates through the internet; inadequate mental health treatment services resulting in some patients “self-medicating”; and the lack of addiction treatment facilities due to a common community approach of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) along with the stigma associated with seeking treatment for the disease of addiction.  Despite the arrest of kingpins and drug pushers, big and small, we still have a supply and demand problem. The supply of heroin has increased and cost is down to as little as $4/bag. As fast as we take drug pushers off the streets, they are replaced by others – there is too much money involved.  We must focus on the demand side of the issue.

If outpatient treatment is not more widely accepted and available, inappropriate hospitalizations and incarcerations of patients will continue.  But how many elected officials openly support establishing treatment centers in their community?  We all know heroin addicts, albeit we may not know who they are. They could be any one of a number of patients I have treated: your plumber; the mailman; your kid’s college professor; the IRS agent who audited your tax return; the person selling flowers at the corner; the principal of an elementary school, or someone who works in a mayor’s office or a family member.” CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE…

Solutions To The Heroin and Opiate Epidemic



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