According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health within the US Department of Health and Human Services), healthcare providers in Nevada wrote nearly 2.2 Million opioid prescriptions in 2017 or 73 opioids for every 100 persons in the state, 24% above the national average of just under 59 per person. There were 13.3 opioid related deaths per 100,000 persons with the highest number by far being related to opioids prescribed by medical providers. 3 babies per 1,000 were born addicted, more than twice the rate from just six years earlier. The numbers are staggering and the increase in both opioid addiction and opioid related deaths has been catastrophic. Tragically, the numbers only reflect the tip of the iceberg relative to the vast devastation visited upon opioid addicted people, and the overall cost to society in healthcare expense and lost productivity as well as quality of life.
As observed in recent court proceedings, the Pharmaceutical Industry, often referred to as “Big Pharma”, has infiltrated our healthcare system over the last two decades and pushed up the utilization of opiates at every level. So much so that hospitals and other healthcare providers ended up being convinced to add a fifth vital sign, asking every patient if they were experiencing any pain and how bad it was. That new “vital sign” scoring system turned out to be 100% reliant upon what the patient said and required no other independently quantifiable indicator. The implications are obvious, and the widespread crisis in addiction to prescription opioids like Oxycontin and Oxycodone that followed should have been no surprise to anyone.
With the crisis being identified, the Pharmaceutical Industry turned toward supplying solutions for the epidemic – amongst them a drug named Buprenorphine. In combination with behavioral therapy, prescription of this drug is known as Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT and has been shown to be successful in helping addicted people return to a certain level of normalcy. Unfortunately, Buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone and Subutex) is opiate based and is an addictive drug in and of itself. In fact, detox from Buprenorphine causes the same or worse withdrawal symptoms as does detox from Oxycontin, Oxycodone or even heroin.