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Opioid Overdose Epidemic


When you hear the term overdose, chances are the first thing that comes to mind are illegal drugs. As recovery specialists and healthcare providers know, however, the dangers of overdose often start with the swipe of a pen on a prescription pad.

The recent fentanyl overdose and death of the legendary artist Prince has brought the opioid epidemic to the forefront. Prince is not the only celebrity to have struggled with an opioid addiction. Jamie Lee Curtis has been very open about her struggles with addiction.

While it might seem like a Hollywood problem at this point, the problem is much actually far-reaching.

Is Opioid Overdose an Epidemic?

Most pain medications are addictive. Long-term prescription use does not always come with follow-up addiction recovery services. As a result, opioid overdose has reached epidemic proportions in this country. According to the Center for Disease Control , 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death, with opioid misuse making up the single largest part of that number.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, your risk of death from an overdose is higher than the risk of death from a car accident. Prescription drugs can lead to drug-seeking behavior that includes faking injuries and looking for illegal substitutes. For many, it is a small step to go from prescription painkillers to heroin, with all of the risks that street drugs contain.

Combating Opioid Addiction

With the widespread issue of prescription drug abuse, doctors face a dual issue.

  1. Patients who need painkillers will likely deal with addiction after recovering from an injury.
  2. Some patients exaggerate symptoms or lie to obtain painkillers.

With these two issues, it can be difficult to determine who actually needs painkillers, versus who is trying to get high. That uncertainty can leave some patients fighting pain without the prescriptions they so desperately need.

Even when painkillers are necessary, the lack of follow-up care may mean a patient develops an addiction with no ongoing support. Chronic conditions often require lifelong pain management, but that shouldn't mean a golden ticket to pain meds on demand. Instead, it should be a balancing act of detox and usage to keep the level of medications as low as possible, while controlling pain. The CDC has released a set of guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain control.

Avoid Overprescribing

Doling out enough pills to last a month, rather than writing smaller prescriptions with follow-up visits to monitor need, can lead to addiction. When a patient gets a full 30-day supply of pills for an injury that should clear up within the week, the rest of the pills don't usually go in the trash can.

Instead, the pills might sit in the medicine cabinet and act as an invitation to imbibe. Testing usage levels and ensuring patients use painkillers as prescribed can go a long way toward the prevention of addiction. Careful control over prescription sizes can also reduce the risks.

Gulfstream Offers Experienced Testing

To help identify addiction issues, Gulfstream offers a variety of tests designed for prescription and designer drugs, including fentanyl. Check out the full list of drugs and metabolites we test for on our site.

As a partner, you gain access to our experienced clinical team to ensure patients are taking drugs as prescribed. By improving testing, you also improve the quality of patient care and lower the risk of long-term addiction.

Get in touch with us today to start getting expert testing done at your practice or business.