Towards the end of 2017, The New York Times published an article which reveals some alarming opioid statistics. While most people understand that painkillers and heroin affect people from several walks of life and practically every age group, it’s likely that a significant number of individuals are unaware that opioids are also affecting young adults in college. Just because people can get into prestigious schools, doesn’t mean that they are going to make wise decisions. Prescription opioid misuse falls under such a category.
In fact, between 2001 to 2014, data indicates a six-fold increase in opioid use disorder among people under age 25. In roughly the same timeframe, opioid overdose deaths pretty much doubled for the age group. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey of college students reveals that 7% misused opioids and the number of Blue Cross Blue Shield opioid-related claims has nearly increased twofold in almost a decade.
The author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education (2015), Ryan Craig wrote an op-ed recently appearing in Forbes which displays some interesting observations about opioid use disorder and college students. After speaking with experts, like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis and others working in the field of addiction, he lays out a pretty concerning picture of prescription drugs use at universities across the country.
Schools Must Confront Opioids
Craig points out that while most colleges have naloxone on campus for use in the event of an overdose, he says that schools are falling short in addressing the underlying issues. He presents “four fundamental elements of college campuses make them suboptimal environments for those struggling with opioids:”
- An anything-goes approach to alcohol and drugs;
- high pressure;
- lack of structure;
- they’re in this environment for at least four years.
Despite the fact that a number of 4-year schools offer students the option of living in sober dorms and some even provide counseling services, Craig believes that such programs don’t go far enough. The author says college programs for people in recovery don’t treat addiction and students spend the majority of their time outside the specialty dorms; he has concluded that if universities are serious about assisting people living with addiction, they must expand their sober programs to include:
- Medical treatment under medical supervision.
- Separation from other students and much more structure – tapering off as students demonstrate success.
- Offer off-ramps leading to good jobs, so students don’t need to spend four years in order to get a win. Most parents of young adults struggling with opioids would trade anything for a clean, employed child; a degree is the least of their concerns. Then provide on-ramps back to degree programs for students who are prepared for the next challenge.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you are a college student misusing prescription opioids or heroin, Synergy Group Services can assist you in finding recovery. Please contact Synergy today to discuss making recovery a part of your life. We understand that education is of vital importance to you and your family, treatment will provide you with the skills for completing higher education unhindered by drugs and alcohol.
Convincing people that they could be helped by addiction treatment is no easy task. Even when it is obvious to the individual that treatment is required. We have written several times about how deadly untreated mental health disorders can be. As well as the fact that most people in need of treatment never get it. But, without treatment the likelihood of premature death is extremely high.
With some use disorders, the road to premature death is often long and painful. Typically, it is the exact opposite with opioids narcotics. Whether it be prescription opioids or heroin, the risk of fatal overdose is staggering. Even when an overdose is not fatal, the risk of another overdose in the near future is high. It is not uncommon for overdose victims to have many, before finally not coming back.
Whether you are in recovery, or not, it is possible that you wonder why an overdose victim doesn’t seek help? After all, it is easy to think that an overdose would be enough to urge someone into treatment. While it is common for overdose to precipitate treatment, it is also quite common for victims to head back to drugs.
Encouraging Overdose Victims Into Treatment
Many addiction experts agree that the time right after an overdose is best for talking to individuals about recovery. Experiencing an overdose is terrifying and not without pain. The opioid overdose antidote naloxone causes the body to undergo rapid withdrawal, it is no walk in the park. Sitting in a hospital bed after nearly dying (one would think), should be a wakeup call. Anyone who has come back from an overdose will tell you how broken they felt. The experience puts things into perspective.
However, those very same people might also share how they went back out and used again. That there were no resources available to help them seek recovery support when they came to. Being discharged and sent on their miserable way towards inevitably the next overdose. With each fatal overdose in the U.S. every day, there are roughly 30 nonfatal overdoses, NPR reports. Sadly, interventions after overdose don’t happen enough, according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The paper showed that among people who had overdosed on heroin, the filling of opioid prescriptions fell by 3.5 percent, the article reports. But, medication-assisted treatment increased by only 3.6 percent. Just 33 percent of heroin and 15 percent of prescription opioid overdose survivors were prescribed:
“This is a time when people are vulnerable, potentially frightened by this event that’s just occurred and amenable to advice, referral and treatment recommendations,” said senior author, Julie Donohue, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s safe to characterize it as a missed opportunity for the health system to respond.”
Addiction Treatment After Overdose
If you have experienced an overdose recently and are still using, please contact Synergy Group Services. The longer treatment is put off, the greater the chance you will experience another overdose. And the next one may not end with a reversal. It is possible to recover from an opioid use disorder, let us help.
“No pathogen, virus or war on this country’s soil has caused the death and destruction as the scourge of opioid addiction,” says Mayor Cary Glickstein of Delray Beach, Florida.
It is hard to argue with the observation made by Mayor Glickstein. City leaders across the country would likely share his sentiments. Now approaching 20 years into the most serious drug addiction epidemic in history, few solutions have borne any fruit. While small strides forward have been made with regard to prescription opioid use, addiction treatment is still lacking.
Across the country, practically every major city has been ravaged by prescription opioid and heroin abuse. When it comes to the former however, lawmakers and citizens are looking for accountability. It is widely agreed upon that the epidemic we face is the direct result of misleading pharmaceutical companies. This is coupled with doctors eager to please patients, with little understanding of the ramifications of overprescribing.
If you have been following the news, of late, state and city leaders have turned their eye on pharmaceutical companies. Claiming that “big pharma” deliberately mislead both doctors and patients. Thus creating the a crisis affecting millions of Americans, including countless loved ones. Using the “big tobacco” lawsuits of the late ‘90’s, companies like, Purdue, et al., have been racked with legal suits. Suits have been filed from Orange County, California to Palm Beach County, Florida. Also, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, New York and the Cherokee Nation are looking for big pharma to cover some of the enormous costs associated with opioid addiction.
Covering the Costs of Opioid Addiction
Across the country, cities have struggled to provide access to addiction treatment services for their thousands of opioid addicts. What services are available, are usually paid for by local government coffers and nonprofits. Emergency departments are treating patients for opioid overdoses in ever increasing numbers. And equipping first responders with naloxone is not cheap, and the price per overdose antidote continues to climb. This is why the City of Delray Beach became the first in Florida to go after the pharmaceutical industry, Palm Beach Post reports. The suit, interestingly, is to help offset the costs related to heroin abuse, which the city claims is a byproduct of the pharmaceutical industries nefarious ways, that is using bogus research to disseminate the idea that opioid addiction is rare, and painkillers like OxyContin are safe.
Anyone living in Florida likely remembers the “pill mill” and “doctor shopping” fiasco affecting the state. Tourists were not just coming for our sunshine; they were coming for easy access to painkillers. The pills were gladly doled out at no-questions-asked pain management clinics (pill mills). Fortunately, the state managed to get a handle on the situation, but it resulted in far greater demand for heroin. Heroin is often cheaper and stronger than prescription opioids, and is commonly cut with the deadly analgesic fentanyl.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd is representing the city, a national firm with an office in Boca Raton, according to the article. Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp. are among at least eight pharmaceutical companies being sued by Delray Beach. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd are representing the city pro bono, although if they win the suit millions of dollars in damages could be awarded.
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true … ” said Mark J. Dearman, a partner in the firm. “This is a playbook right out of (Big) Tobacco.”
The law firm claims that the financial burden of overdoses has fallen largely on state, county and city governments. There were 690 overdoses is Delray alone last year, the article reports. For every overdose in Delray Beach, it costs about $2,000 for naloxone and the first responders administering the life-saving drug.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
We will continue to follow this important story. If damages are awarded, the money could be used for prevention, public addiction treatment services and the cost of naloxone.
Are you one of the many prescription opioid users who has made the switch to heroin? If so, please reach out to us here at Synergy Group Services to begin the life-saving mission of addiction recovery. The risk of overdose is too great to put off recovery any longer.
The rate of overdose deaths in this country is staggering, opioid addiction has touched practically every demographic – a problem which is expected to get worse before it gets better. The federal government, along with local lawmakers and health officials, has had to face the problem head on. Developing new plans and strategies to save lives in what could only be described as an uphill battle. In recent years, access to the life saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone has increased. The drug, also known as Narcan, is now in the hands of first responders and the loved ones of opioid addicts in many states. Greater naloxone access has saved thousands of lives – a miracle drug by anyone’s standards.
It is sad fact that many teenagers will overdose on prescription opioids or heroin, potentially losing their lives. Fortunately, a number of states have equipped high school nurses with the life saving drug, NPR reports.
School nurses have naloxone on hand in:
- New York
The state of New York altered its laws and allocated $272,000 in the budget this year, giving school nurses access to naloxone, according to the article. In the past, nurses had to call paramedics in the event of an overdose; naturally, when it comes to overdoses, time is of the essence. When nurses have naloxone in their tool belt, there is a greater chance of saving a life.
While it may seem logical to have naloxone on hand at schools, there are some administrators who are reluctant to use naloxone at school for fear of being liable, the article points out. However, under the law nurses are protected from liability, if they act in good faith – making it difficult to file suit.
“Some districts might, nevertheless, fear that they would have to defend this type of lawsuit, even if, ultimately, they were successful,” said Jay Worona, General Counsel for the New York State School Boards Association.
At Synergy Group Services we offer individualized treatment plans for addiction recovery.