Obesity, diabetes, and cancer are the top three health concerns
that consistently receive attention. But there's an equally grave epidemic facing the population that rarely receives any attention at all - opioid addiction.
In fact, 2.1 million people in the U.S. and over 25 million worldwide suffer from some form of opioid abuse. 
Related - Global Obesity Epidemic: Over 2 Billion Are Overweight
Due to the escalating numbers of new opioid addiction cases each year, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened a panel to see what can be done about the situation. After a thorough review of current policies, the NASEM panel is calling on federal regulators to completely overhaul opioid policies in the U.S.
The panel also noted that some current measures in place to curtail the epidemic may in fact be increasing abuse of opioids.
The 18-member NASEM committee detailed numerous trends and key facts of what they believe is furthering the opioid crisis, but noted that the current available data is severely lacking on its description of the opioid epidemic and the relationship between pain and opioid abuse.
The NASEM panel is calling upon the FDA to review each and every opioid currently on the market using a new "risk-benefit" matrix and those that fail to meet the criteria as outlined by the panel be swiftly removed. Additionally, the committee suggested mandatory training on opioid abuse disorders and pain management for physicians, pharmacists and other key players in health care.
FYI, any post med-school training health care providers receive as "continuing education" classes is predominantly presented by opioid manufacturers.
NASEM Committee Chair Richard J. Bonnie, Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law and director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville", said:
"The broad reach of the epidemic has blurred the formerly distinct social boundary between prescribed opioids and illegally manufactured ones, such as heroin. This report provides an action plan directed particularly at the health professions and government agencies responsible for regulating them. This plan aims to help the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain while reducing unnecessary opioid prescribing."
The committee did note that efforts to get physicians to write fewer prescriptions for opioids has been somewhat successful, but more needs to be done if the crisis is to ever reverse course.
Other measures the committee suggested include:
- Establish a public-private partnership to institute drug take-back programs, allowing unused drugs to be returned to any pharmacy
- Public and private payers, including insurance companies, should establish reimbursement programs that support evidence-based and cost-effective pain management
- Health and Human Services (HHS)HHS, in conjunction with state organizations, should conduct or fund research on how data from prescription drug monitoring programs can be more effectively used to monitor opioid prescribing and distribution.
In addition, the report suggests that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and pharmaceuticals industry should invest in research to develop non-addictive pain treatments and the nature of opioid abuse.
What do you think should be done about the ongoing opioid crisis in the US and around the world? Were you aware of how serious and rampant opioid abuse was?
Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.
1) "World Drug Report 2012." United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2012.html.
2) "Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use : Health and Medicine Division." Home | The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine | National-Academies.org | Where the Nation Turns for Independent, Expert Advice, nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/pain-management-and-the-opioid-epidemic.aspx.