Opioid Epidemic

In January, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts surveyed 601 Massachusetts adults about the opioid crisis. A majority know someone who has been addicted to opioids and three in ten know someone who has died from drug addiction.

The respondents felt that this was the most important issue to then and that it wasn’t getting better. A clear majority think it is a public health issue rather than one of law enforcement. There is large support for increased treatment. However a majority also think the addicted person shares some of the blame.

Over half of the respondents think that prescription drugs are too easy to get and legal drugs are seen as more of a problem than illegal.  22 % of the people had themselves taken a prescription pain killer in the past two years.

Rural areas appear to be the most affected by the problem. 16 percent of the sample came from rural areas  and 77 percent of them thought opioids was a very serious problem.

81 percent of the same was white while 7 percent was black.  As the opioid crisis has become more pronounced it is clear that people are paying attention because it is affecting white rural or suburban areas. Heroin has been a problem in urban minority neighborhoods for a long time but has not received the same focus.

The fact that most of the respondents saw prescription drugs as the problem is also a change. Although President Trump thinks that gangs are the major source of drugs the current crisis has been fueled by d0ctors with prescription pads.

The other major culprit in the current crisis is the pharmaceutical industry which aggressively marketed opioids as a appropriate response to pain. In nursing school I learned that pain was the fifth vital sign and had to be adequately addressed.

Of course chronic pain sufferers are the other side of the coin. In clamping down on misuse of prescription drugs we may inadvertently be limiting access to pain relief for this population.