When it Took Off
The opioid crisis really emerged and began in the mid-1990s when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin. With improved surgical techniques more people were being prescribed opiates for post-surgical pain issues. Additionally, an aging population was living longer and longer, many of whom were dealing with chronic pain issues that they needed help alleviating. In the late 1990s there were reports of some elderly people selling their opiate prescriptions in order to obtain supplement income for themselves. Many physicians at the time were not knowledgeable enough about the risks of dependence and addiction developing. They were simply trying to assist and make their patients comfortable.
Heroin as an Alternative
By the early 2000s there was growing concern about the number of opiates being prescribed and physicians were educated to minimize the frequency and quantity of opiates they were prescribing. Overdoses and deaths from prescription opiates were becoming alarming. As opiates became more challenging to obtain, many people switched to heroin which was more readily available, albeit by illegal means. For those already addicted to opiates, switching to heroin was a small risk to take to maintain their addiction. By 2010 heroin use was way up and just as with prescription opiates, medical facilities were seeing a sharp increase in overdoses and deaths now from heroin.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. Many people addicted to opiates who were now receiving fewer pills from physicians simply got more physicians. Patients dependent on opiates were seeing 2-4 doctors around town for the same medical issue and getting prescriptions from all of them. This allowed them to resume their previous levels of use and/or make some additional money selling what they did not need. The need to know how many prescriptions any given patient might have has become vital. Many states began implementing prescription drug monitoring programs between 2007-2010. This complex and coordinated system allows the state, pharmacies, and physicians to access a database that shows patients’ information, prescriptions, when they were filled, how many, and which physician wrote it.
Progress and More Work to Do
From 2011-2020 opioid prescriptions were down 44%. In 2020 physicians used their state’s prescription drug monitoring program over 910 million times to verify what a patient was taking and when they were filling it. This has dramatically curtailed the prescription opiate issue, but much work remains to be done. As noted, many people have switched to heroin and now we are seeing the third wave of issues with people seeking illegal synthetic opiates such as Fentanyl. Progress continues to be made in the past 4 years have seen a 57% decline in new heroin users relative to the past couple decades.
Maple Grove Psychiatrists
If you are struggling with opiates and addiction, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our providers so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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