The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly referred to as the CDC, has largely been in charge of maintaining the health and wellness of citizens throughout the United States and sometimes even abroad. Back in 2011, the CDC released a statement that included the following:
“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined…prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America.”
Since the CDC declared an epidemic, several different professionals from all kinds of fields of study have seen been searching for ways to help better manage the opioid epidemic and/or eradicate it fully. And while there have been several different initiatives put forward that have helped reduce some opioid addictions throughout the country, the rate at which individuals are developing opioid use disorders is far more than those who are ending theirs.
With the knowledge of just how dangerous and deadly this opioid crisis is, the newly appointed CDC director Robert Redfield has shifted his focus to both the opioid epidemic and suicide rates (as they are related to opioid addiction).
Tackling the Opioid Epidemic
Redfield, who is known for his tireless efforts fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, is now taking on today’s public health crisis – the opioid epidemic.
This fall, data recorded over 2017 will be released to the public. Redfield believes, despite not having seen the data just yet, that the lives lost due to the opioid epidemic in 2017 will trump the lives that were lost in 1995 to HIV/AIDS, which totaled 48,000 people and marked the most deadly year of that specific epidemic.
To expand the CDC’s reach as related to the opioid epidemic, Redfield wants to continue practices that are showing positive results, and modify those that are lacking. For example, Redfield is encouraging the continuation of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for those who are recovering from opioid addiction. Medication-assisted treatment programs provide individuals who are addicted to opioids like prescription painkillers, heroin, etc. with opioid-based medications that help them end their addiction more comfortably and carefully. These medications include methadone and buprenorphine. And while this practice has remained controversial, Redfield is standing behind the data showing that the implementation of this kind of treatment provides several positive results.
Through Redfield, the CDC aims to implement more effective systems of tracking opioid overdoses so that the data that is collected can be obtained in real time, as opposed to being delayed. This system is currently in place, however, the data that is collected is a few months behind. Having current data can help the CDC and other officials provide help in real time.
It is no secret that addiction is, in fact, a disease, however, countless individuals still struggle with grasping how this could possibly be so. Unfortunately, that stigma and misbelief can be just as dangerous as the addiction itself, as it causes individuals to avoid getting treatment out of fear of judgment. Thankfully, Redfield recognizes addiction as the disease it is, stating that, “this is a medical condition; it’s not a moral failure”.
The Suicide Connection
Some new data that was released earlier this spring highlighted the significant connection between opioid addiction and suicide.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that from 1999-2014, suicides that were executed through opioid overdose increased from 2.2% to 4.3%. The people who most commonly utilized that route for suicidal purposes included those between the ages of 45 and 64.
In fact, the National Death Index reported that the risk for suicide was 87 people per every 100,000 people who have an opioid use disorder, which is six times more than the rest of the American population.
With suicide becoming more prevalent throughout the United States, it is imperative to determine how and why this is also developing into a health crisis. It is important to consider the following:
- Access – Opioids, specifically prescription opioids, are easily accessible. These medications are freely prescribed, meaning that even those who are not written an opioid medication can probably find someone who is or someone who is willing to write them one. Access to powerful and potent medications such as these can increase one’s chances of utilizing them for suicide purposes.
- Lack of mental health care – The United States, despite some beliefs, does provide an exceptional amount of mental health care to the public. The problem with the mental health care that is provided is that it is typically very expensive, is not covered by insurance, or an employer is not at liberty to approve leave for a mental health condition. So while thousands of people seek treatment, many do not because of challenges such as these.
- Increase in mental health conditions – Common mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders are more prevalent today than ever before. As these disorders continue to develop, individuals become more likely to turn to the use of opioid medications to alleviate some of the symptoms of their mental health condition.
So, as you can see, opioid addiction and suicide have several common ties, and it is no surprise that opioids are involved in suicides throughout the country. The hope of CDC director is to help address issues such as these and put in place effective plans designed to reduce rates of both suicide and opioid addiction.
What Should I Do if I Have an Opioid Addiction and/or are Suicidal?
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, it is imperative that you reach out for help immediately. You can do so by contacting a loved one, a therapist, or even the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255). By doing so, you can get connected to one or more individuals who can help you obtain the treatment that you need.
Should you be addicted to opioids like heroin, Percocet, morphine, fentanyl, OxyContin, etc., making the decision to enter into a treatment program can be the most effective thing that you do for yourself. While it may feel overwhelming and frightening, beginning your care through a medication-assisted treatment program (MAT) or in an inpatient setting can be the difference between life and death.
Both of these conditions commonly occur alongside one another. If you are experiencing this mental health crisis, you are not alone. Reach out for professional treatment today to end your opioid addiction and obtain the appropriate treatment to help manage your suicidal tendencies, thoughts, and behaviors.
Here at Serenity, we can help you or a loved one get through this challenging part of life. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us.