Innovative Approaches to Combating Addiction

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The epidemic of opioid misuse is one of the most destructive public health catastrophes of our time. It costs billions of dollars to families, communities, and the country and causes untold suffering and destruction. People have died from overdoses of legal prescription opioids, heroin, and potent synthetics like fentanyl. Millions have been left behind to suffer from related problems such as joblessness, homelessness, truancy, and family disruption. This tragedy affects people of all ages and backgrounds, and it is taking an enormous economic toll in the form of lost wages and productivity, medical expenses, and increased costs for social services, law enforcement, education, and housing. Check out the Best info about Combating Addiction.

We must take a comprehensive approach to tackling this crisis. A multi-faceted strategy must include prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for individuals impacted by substance use disorder. This must also involve strategies to prevent and treat co-occurring conditions such as mental illness, domestic violence, and trauma. The National Institutes of Health, in partnership with other federal agencies and partners, is collaborating to develop a study as part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative to test an integrated model that includes community-based prevention, treatment, and recovery support activities.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that this type of comprehensive, integrated care is effective, too many people with substance use disorder do not receive it. There are too few specialty treatment programs and many barriers, including cost and accessibility, that limit access for those who need it most. Essential tools such as naloxone and syringe services are often restricted or underfunded locally, liminality to those who need them most.

In addition, how our health care system functions currently promotes quick, simplistic solutions to complex and societal challenges. This is the case with our response to the opioid crisis, characterized by overreliance on opioid medications and a lack of coordination between systems. It is also marked by high hospital and emergency department readmission rates, missed opportunities for prevention and early intervention, ineffective referrals, incomplete treatment, and individual tragedies—like drug overdose deaths—that could have been prevented.

We must change the way we talk about and think about addiction. It is a disease, not a moral failing, and we should stop stigmatizing people who have substance use disorder. It is also time to stop using the term “drug abuse.” Instead, we should call it a “substance use disorder,” and we should replace references to being “clean” or “dirty” with medical terminology such as “recovery.” The more we can shift our thinking and language in this area, the better we will be at addressing and responding to this crisis. We are seeing signs of progress in some vital areas. For example, more and more health professionals are using the term “substance use disorder,” and fewer are talking about being “clean” or “dirty.” This is a good start, but we must do much more.

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