Over the past five years, Florida has been experiencing something of a heroin epidemic. Fatalities have increased and the number of children born addicted has nearly doubled. Rehab programs and detox centers have been overwhelmed and simply don’t have the room or time to treat everyone.
The rise in abuse comes in part from an overall increase in chronic pain. It is estimated that more than 30% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic or even debilitating pain. These people are prescribed a drug or painkiller which blankets the pain but does not eliminate it. It is very easy to get addicted to pain medication and that addiction often leads to a stronger drug like heroin once the patient develops a tolerance to the original drug.
Florida doctors have known for some time that part of the cause of the rise in heroin use is due to the fact that pain medication is expensive and heroin is cheap. This has led to couples giving birth to children that are addicted to heroin. Few couples can survive such a bleak event and the situation often exacerbates an already existing drug problem.
Trading in One Opioid for Another
The recent crackdown on prescription drug abuse and irresponsible doctors has had some unintended consequences. It was thought that by getting painkillers off the streets, the addiction rate would go down. What ended up happening is that it is harder for addicts to get OxyContin or Vicodin, so they turn to heroin.
The average addict in Florida is not the kind of person you might see on a TV show. Most addicts are upper middle class and begin using the drug after college. Most of them begin through the use of prescribed painkillers and end up addicted over a long period of time before eventually going through detox and rehab.
Use Must be Monitored
As Florida cracked down on “pill-mills,” many of those crooked physicians switched to prescribing suboxone. The same doctors who enabled addicts to get all of the drugs they wanted are now selling them suboxone instead. Some of the doctors who sling suboxone don’t even have an office. They set up shop in their hose and living room and some make sure they have bullet-proof glass. They only take cash and have a strict no-refund policy. At some of these places, addicts can just place an order in exchange for cash.
Suboxone use needs to be carefully monitored. Those taking suboxone need to wait 24 hours after the last time they used opioids, otherwise they will experience immediate withdrawals.
Suboxone has its own risks. It is used in detox for opiod and alcohol addiction. It can cause depression and insomnia, conditions that usually lengthen the time that it takes to detox. An addict must go through detox before they can be admitted to a rehab program. There are different styles of heroin rehab to choose from. Most rehab involves a combination of group meetings and daily therapy.
The true cure to this dilemma seems to be to come up with an alternate way of treating chronic pain that is affordable to all.