The Opioid Crisis the Double Abuses
The number of deaths caused by opioid overdose is climbing. The death toll in British Columbia passed 1,100 in just 9 months this year, a figure larger than the total of the last year. The death of opioid overdose reaches 865 cases in 2016 in Ontario, a 19% of increase. This epidemic claimed 2,800 people in 2017 in Canada. The hospitalization of opioid poisoning is 10 people per 100,000 population in 2007 and an estimated 16 this year. The crisis is the result of double abuses: abuse of the drug, and abuse of the substance.
An opioid is a drug for the relief of pain. It is one of the many painkillers. It acts on the nervous system to interfere with human sensation. It does not cure illness, nor prevent illness. It is used to manage pains, and to maintain the quality of life temporally. It is therefore called therapy. Once you used it, you have to keep using it until addicted to it. Because the opioid is not used to cure the illness, once the use of it stops, the pain will come back if the illness is not diminished. Opioid suppresses the problem, and create new problems of addiction and overdose. Some of the medical uses of opioids are abused if the pain is not eliminated by other means or the illness is not diagnosed as incurable.
Purdue Pharma, a private pharmacy company, released OxyContin, an opioid medicine, in 1995. Today the owner of the company, the Sacklers family, is among the richest in America, with a net worth of thirteen billion, passing the Rockefellers family. The medical profession changed its prescription practice in 1996. They prescribe opioid painkillers to patients, increasingly. The prescription opioids doubled from 1998 to 2007 in Canada. From 2012 to 2017, the prescriptions of opioids increased by 6%. Retail pharmacies dispensed 19 million opioid prescriptions across Canada in 2016.
Canadians use painkillers in 466,000 doses per day, second only to the US as the top painkiller-consuming country. Pain is the intrinsic mechanism of our body to tell us something wrong with our body. The pain prevents us from normal motions, telling us we need treatment or rest. The abuse of painkillers silences the body's signal. Because of the reduced or eliminated pain signal, the illness that can be recovered by rest cannot get the chance. This will worsen the existing illness that in turn will cost our healthcare system more money to treat the patient. The painkiller market of Canada indicates a big problem with our healthcare system. Many illnesses that can recover earlier have been postponed to develop into more serious illnesses. That's why we have a long waiting time and never enough hospital capacity. We don't have a healthcare system. What we have is a sickness system. The increasing medicine market and the enlarging healthcare facilities are the results of more sick people. If we reduce the use of painkiller, patients will rest at home as the body tell them to. More illnesses will be recovered earlier and serious illnesses can be greatly reduced.
If our healthcare system is really working, people will be healthier and healthier, the market for painkillers will shrink smaller and smaller, there will be less and less illness, and fewer and fewer people need the hospitals and clinics. If our medical profession is professional enough, they will be able to diagnose early signs of illness and put the initial tendency of illness into treatment, instead of using painkillers to wait for the illness to develop. We should award doctors who can detect the smallest sign of illness and put them into treatment. The healthcare system should have the priority of preventing illness first and curing the illness at the very beginning. Letting patients take painkillers is to ignore the illness at the beginning and let it develop into a profitable stage for the interest groups that hijack our healthcare system. They increase the profitable market. A profitable market is the number of patients times the seriousness of their illness. That's why our healthcare system becomes the illness system.
In addition to the abuse of the drug for medical purposes, there is the abuse of substances for the recreational use of opioids. People who have no medical need but use opioids to induce instant satisfaction. Our body has its own mechanism to balance internal body chemicals. If we used a drug to tip off the balance of internal chemicals, the body will react to balance it. One consequence of this is that the body will develop drug dependence that the user will addict to the drug. Another consequence is that the user may need larger and larger doses to reach the same level of satisfaction, and eventually overdose.
Drug-induced satisfaction is not a healthy lifestyle, nor a healthy recreation. Indulging ourselves in substance abuse causes problems in our society. No society would promote recreational opioids or marijuana because of the risk of addiction and overdose. However, the use of marijuana and opioid has become an epidemic in Canada.
Our government has social programs and social workers to respond to the personal, social, and emotional needs of our citizens. Our government has Culture Youth Programs to help our youth grow in body, heart, and mind. We have schools to cultivate the next generation. Our schools and government programs should have guided the behaviors of our youth to avoid substance abuse. Yet we failed. Now our government is expensing on needle exchange, drug dispensaries, and emergency services for the overdosed, not addressing the root causes of the opioid crisis.
The opioid crisis is the result of two factors: the push from medical abuse, and the pull from substance abuse. If we do not address these two cases of abuse, our society is doomed to live with the epidemic of the opioid crisis.