Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - They are Us

Name: madison ...
From: Calabasas, CA
School: Pepperdine University
Votes: 5 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - They are Us

They are Us


THEY
are US

What
is your why?” He asked.

Huh?”
the patient replied.

Why
are you doing this? Why are you here today? I’m not a rehab center
that claims to kick a 10-year addiction in 30 days. I’m here to
help you. So, why are you here?”

This
question produced some of the most insightful answers I witnessed
while interning at an Opioid Treatment clinic.

The
answers varied: “I want to be a good mom for my four-year-old” “I
want to teach” “My son is getting married in June and I want to
be in his life” These were just some examples of the patients’
“why’s”.

As
a nation, it is no doubt we are dealing with an Opioid Addiction
Crisis. I witnessed first-hand experience while working as a
Back-Office Assistant at a Suboxone Treatment Facility. Before
working at the treatment facility
,
I held the common misconception of drug abusers. After interning with
the center, I learned about those who suffer from the first-hand
effects of substance abuse: they are moms, university Physics
Teachers, and cancer survivors.
The
2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 91.8
million US adults (37.8%) used prescription opioids, 11.5 million
(4.7%) misused these drugs, and 1.9 million (0.8%) had a substance
use disorder.1
However, why were these people misusing prescription opioids? 63.4%
reported that their primary motivation for misuse was to relieve
physical pain.


The
patients’ life stories regarding their introduction to opiate use
surprised me while working at the clinic. The vast majority of
patients’ addictions originated from a prescription from a doctor
to help alleviate their pain. I distinctly remember one patient who
was a cancer survivor and mother to a four-year-old who battled
chronic pain and was prescribed opioids for 1-month then had to stop
due to a change in insurance which no longer covered the cost. It was
never her intention to become addicted. However, her story is all too
familiar, many patients are prescribed a 1-month supply and then
abruptly cut off from a highly addictive medicine while still
experiencing chronic pain. These users were typically
socioeconomically disadvantaged: uninsured, unemployed, or from
low‐income households. Low socioeconomic backgrounds and opioid
prescriptions that only last one month

create
a recipe for addiction; many could not afford the costly
prescriptions while experiencing painful withdrawals. Thus they are
prone to resort to other desperate options, such as illegal
narcotics. I believe that the United States places emphasis on
maximizing output and as a society, we are often quick to offer a
simple
pharmacologic
intervention as an easy solution to the pain rather than investing in
a sustainable long term solutions. Instead, we must determine the
short and long term consequences of the prescription of pain
relieving drugs because it may negatively impact patients’ lives
forever.

The
consequences for drug-abuse are often the “why’s” that many
patients gave as their reason for seeking sobriety. Patients want to
be involved in their family life, they want to have a successful
career, and they want to be in control of their lives again.
Drug-addiction often goes unnoticed and untreated due to shameful
stigma it holds in society. Individuals, like the cancer-surviving
mother, for example, are less likely to seek help in fear of being
labeled as an “addict” and being blamed and shunned for their
addiction. These individual consequences are amplified on a societal
level. The people who are battling substance abuse may be less
involved in social functions and may struggle to keep a job.
Financial instability adds stress to users which can lead to an
increase in the use of opioids as a coping mechanism that may lend
them up in a hospital.
An
analysis suggested that the total costs of prescription opioid use
disorders and overdoses in the United States was $78 billion in
2013.2

Opioid-related
Emergency Room services are costly and contribute to a financial
strain on the Government and healthcare providers. These societal
issues can be alleviated by providing proper rehabilitation for
patients. First, we need to improve opioid withdrawal symptoms with
medications like buprenorphine and methadone. Second, we need to
educate the patients on what steps they need to take for a long-term
commitment like changing residency, cell-phone numbers, and social
groups that may impact their sobriety.


Many
patients have had long-term drug abuse with chronic pain and a 30-day
rehab center is not the solution. We need to shift our focus from
running a sprint to running a marathon. We need to provide emotional
and physiological support in better practices for pain management for
their well-being. Patients need a positive intervention, repeated
check-ups, and prescription adjustments to help them along their
journey to sobriety.

Opioids
can do wonderful things for people who have chronic pain like
cancer-survivors and ex-veterans. However, it’s our responsibility
to educate Physicians on proper prescription writing and how to treat
the patient in a holistic approach. Also, we need to educate the user
on the proper use of prescribed drugs, symptoms of abuse, and
resources for pain management and addiction. Once, we can accept our
individual responsibilities then we can come together to take grander
strides on the opioid epidemic as a nation.

As
I continue my path to become a future Physician, I know that I will
hold responsibility for my patient’s well-being and quality of
life. As a society, we need to seize the stigma that drug users are
“they” and rather see them as they are, people. They are us, and
like all people, we are not defined by our mistakes but instead, we
are defined by our strength and actions to overcome the obstacles
that have been placed in our lives.

1


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Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - They are Us
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