Is this New War on Opioids Going to Help or Hinder Those in Pain?

Just over six months ago, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic in this country a national emergency. Many health officials said that the federal government was not providing enough resources to help states combat the issue. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide money and other resources to help fight the opioid addiction. President Trump also stated that he will take action to prevent anyone involved in the drug administration process, from street dealers to medical doctors.

There is no question that there is a serious opioid problem in America today. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 11.5 million Americans ages 12 and up misused prescription pain medicine in 2016 alone. In Wilmington, North Carolina, a single U.S city that 117,500 people call home, more than 500 overdoses happened in 2017.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examination performed by University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm estimated that the number of undercounted opioid deaths increased from 20% to 35% from 1999 to 2015. That means that there were more than 7,000 deaths, according to their research, that were potentially not accounted for. This means that even more people are dying from heroin and other drugs than we realized. The problem may be worse than we even know.

Again, it’s no question that the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation is devastating. However, is the new declared “war on opioids” from President Trump going to help? Hospitals in the Virginia Penisula area are not so sure.

About 86% of all patients admitted to hospital beds require an infusion pump, or IV, according to the Materiel Services (MS) department at the University of Michigan Health Systems. Sometimes, these IVs are used to administer narcotic pain medications to patients who desperately need them.

The new war on opioids has created a shortage of these pain medications. The three major prescription opioid painkillers, fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone started coming in less and less frequently last summer for the Virginia Penisula area hospitals. Now, the shipments have been significantly reduced over the last month.

The shortage is forcing hospitals to conserve their IV supplies for the patients with the greatest need and to find alternative pain relief for other patients. The shipments could be cut down to as little as 30% of what they used to get, according to Tim Jennings, the health system’s vice president and pharmacy executive.

Patients are now being denied traditional forms of pain relief in an attempt to help those overdosing on the streets of America.

“The current changes in pain control methods could be a first step toward a permanent shift in how hospitals control pain, using fewer IV narcotics and reserving their use for trauma patients, surgery patients and others in the most acute pain,” Sentara Healthcare spokesman Dale Gauding wrote in a news release.

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