There is a serious national crisis ongoing in the United States of America, caused by the continuous increase of the number of dead from opioid medicinal overdose. The 2016 election campaign which led Trump to presidency without a doubt stole the limelight from this topic on the major american newspapers, which neglected the issue to cover other news (or alleged news) about the new president.
On July 12th, at the Rayburn House Office Building, a meeting was called in order to discuss the serious situation the entire of America is facing. Among the others who took part in the meeting – hosted by the Committee appointed to the situation of opioid – the governors of the American states (Kentucky and Virginia) most afflicted by the death from overdose, together with a pool of experts were called to give their opinion and their advice about how to face this crisis.
The numbers speak for themselves: the center for diseases control and prevention (CDC) estimated that in 2005 there were 15,000 victims from opioid medicinal overdose. Ten years later, in 2015, the number of dead duplicated, reaching 30,000. According to the esteem of the same source, in 2016 the dead caused by the careless use of medicines was almost 60,000. A frightful number which seems to come from a country with an ongoing civil war.
According to an analysis made by an American company which monitors data about the health sector, the number of people with a private medical insurance (not provided by the state, unlike for instance, the Medicaid program) to which was diagnosed a problem with the opioid grew six times in four years: among the 205 million workers analysed in 2012, 241,000 were diagnosed an opioid use disorder; in 2016 the number rose to 1.4 million. This analysis, as mentioned, does not take into account citizens who carelessly use medicines but have a medical insurance provided by the program Medicaid.
The problem is not just the vast number of deaths – which keep on growing year after year – but also the damage caused to the American State. There are roughly 187 million people taking medicines without following the prescription. According to a study of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation the cost for the state of the improper use of medicines is around 300 billion dollars (per year). The expenses for those who, taking medicines carelessly, overdose or need some medical treatment, and therefore the costs linked to the work of the hospitals (excess of hospitalizations) are equal to 100 billion dollars per year.
And this is without considering the robberies of drugstores made by criminal gangs wanting to get medicines containing a potentially hallucinogenic active substance. A practical example: they steal medicines containing codeine, which is then isolated and put in a Sprite bottle to be ready for being used and sold. This black market produces a lot of money: that is because the cost of the medicines processed to be used as a drug usually is five time bigger then the cost of medicines sold in a regular drugstore as simply medicinal.
At this stage the biggest step against what is considered as one of the major challenges USA has to face, is the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a proposal that became an official law on July 22th 2016. The main provisions contained in this document are two, and their weight, even though is not insignificant, is not enough to solve the problem.
The first program, currently under improvement, is called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). In a few words the big pharmaceutical companies must install new programs on their computer in order to be able to identify the patient to whom the opioid medicine is delivered to. This is because today, and it is not news, medicines in America are given away like sweets. A patient can buy the medicine he desires in a drugstore and then go in an other drugstore and buy another one. While, obviously, he couldn’t buy more than a certain amount. If pharmacists would be able to check whom exactly they are selling a certain medicine to and if the patient already bought it and so he cannot have any more, that certainly be a step forward toward the solution of the problem.
The second provision is meant, instead, to facilitate the selling of Naloxone, a medicine that is saving many lives in America: that is because, if administered to someone who is dyeing from overdose, it can save the patient, or at least delay the death while waiting for an ambulance. The problem is that this medicine, like the methadone, could be used as a drug, since it contain an active substance very similar to the one of the opioid. What the government want to achieve is allowing the selling of this medicine also to those who are not suffering of problem linked to the use of opioid, but, for example, have children who often risk an overdose. It could seen as a useless idea, even morally reprehensible for who is not an insider, but in this way a mother with a son at high risk of overdose would have the possibility to buy the Naloxone, so that she could save him if she should ever find him unconscious.
The opioid crisis represents a problem that the american media should perhaps pay more attention to, even if the articles about Trump sell more copies. In 2016, in the United States, the deaths from overdose overtook the deaths from guns shot. This what, between an article about Trump and another, the New York Times says.