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The Opioid Epidemic: US Surgeon General Warns American Doctors to be Prepared for What's Coming their Way

Hundreds of thousands of health practitioners are waking up to a public call by the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, to curb the opioid dependence for depression cure in the US. What they had learned in the medical school and the information they received during their practice is that opioids are not addictive for patients with severe depression and pain. However, they haven't seriously considered the safety of these prescription drugs and whether or not they can lead to addiction or fatal overdoses, until recently. In a historic move, Murthy will be reaching out to every physician in the country to seek their support for this serious task at hand.

Backed By An Urgent Reason
In the US alone, hundreds of thousands of people have died due to this rightly claimed "epidemic". Based on the numbers shared by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the count of deaths resulting from the overdose of pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin (which contain opioids) had crossed the mark of 165,000 back in 2014. "I am seeking your help in order to resolve an urgent health crisis faced by America: that is the opioid epidemic," wrote Murthy in his open letter to all active health practitioners (also shared on turnthetiderx.org). "We have arrived at this point on a path paved with positive intentions," he added.

However, these good intentions seem to have gone terribly wrong. In the year 2012, healthcare practitioners wrote more than 259 million prescriptions suggesting opioid pain medication, which is enough for every single adult in the US to have a bottle of "medication", according to a claim by the CDC.

Opioid Dependency and Growing Demand For Medical Services
Patients who are diagnosed for opioid dependency require a series of medical services, including visits to doctors, lab tests and several related treatments. Based on the cases of privately insured patients suffering from opioid dependency problem, researchers at Fair Health have put forth a sad picture. Between 2007 and 2014, the requirement of medical services for such patients has grown by more than 3,000% - from 217,000 to 7 million. The numbers are stunning even for those who are already familiar with the nature of this nationwide problem.

What Factors Lead To This Critical Situation
Andrew Kolodny, who is a senior scientist at Brandeis University said such a tremendous rise over a short span of time is a true definition of an "epidemic". The addiction to opioid pain medications can be directly linked to the increased prescription by doctors, nurses, and dentists over the last decade, he said, however, that's not the only reason.

Though many of the patients with dependency problems get the prescriptions as pills, many also form a habit of obtaining the drugs illicitly from a friend, dealer or even a family member. Younger patients may start with the medications prescribed by their doctor, said Kolodny, but many of them turn to harmful street drugs like heroin as they find it harder to maintain their opioid supply by regularly visiting doctors. This points out that a huge amount of effort is required to prevent future cases like these and treat patients who are already suffering from addiction problems.


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