By: Bethany Winkel
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What are the most Effective Ways to Handle the Heroin Addiction Epidemic?
By now we’ve all heard that heroin abuse and addiction are still on the rise, leading to shockingly high numbers of overdoses. According to the CDC, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013.
The CDC has a lot of information on their website about what is being done and what can be done about this problem. Basically, it will take education, prevention, and treatment for those at risk for this type of addiction. More people need to understand the risks associated with any type of opiate use, and also learn how easily a person can switch from using prescription painkillers to heroin.
According to the CDC, here is what is being done, and what else can be done:
The Federal government is:
- Providing educational training and resources to health care providers so they can make informed decisions and ensure the appropriate prescribing of opioid painkillers.
- Increasing access to substance abuse treatment services through the Affordable Care Act.
- Expanding use of Medication-Assisted Treatment.
- Supporting the development and distribution of the life-saving drug naloxone to reduce prescription opioid painkiller and heroin overdose deaths.
- Supporting the research of pain medications that are less prone to abuse.
- Track trends and target prevention strategies.
- Address the strongest risk factor for heroin addiction: addiction to prescription opioid painkillers.
- Increase access to substance abuse treatment services, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), for opioid addiction.
- Expand access to and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths.
- Ensure that people have access to integrated prevention services, including access to sterile injection equipment from a reliable source, as allowed by local policy.
- Help local jurisdictions to put these effective practices to work in communities where drug addiction is common.
Health care providers can:
- Follow best practices for responsible painkiller prescribing to reduce opioid painkiller addiction, the strongest risk factor for heroin addiction:
- Use prescription drug monitoring programs and ask patients about past or current drug and alcohol use prior to considering opioid treatment.
- Prescribe the lowest effective dose and only the quantity needed for each patient.
- Link patients with substance use disorders to effective substance abuse treatment services.
- Support the use of Food and Drug Administration approved MAT options (methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) in patients addicted to prescription opioid painkillers or heroin.
Learn more about the risks of using heroin and other drugs.