Opioid addiction, abuse and deaths have been a consistent problem in the United States and Missouri for decades. The coronavirus pandemic has only increased and highlighted these problems more.
The American Medical Association reported early on in the lockdowns that 30 states saw an increase in opioid-related deaths and Missouri was on that list.
The advocacy group Voices for Non-Opioid Choices believes that they have a solution that can help ease some of the carnage.
“Roughly 50 million surgical procedures happen every year in this country,” Chris Fox, the executive director of Voices for Non-Opioid Choices said. “And for many of these patients and providers, the decision for how to manage pain is not up to the doctor or patient; rather it is up to arcane reimbursement policies that inadvertently incentivize the utilization of opioids.”
Fox highlighted that the group is not against opioid use for solutions to pain, but they feel there are better routes for people to be taking than the prescription drug.
How could non-opioid use be incentivized as an option to patients? The organization has been backing a bill, the NOPAIN Act, that would try to bring that issue to the forefront of the legislature.
In November of 2019, the bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and from there H.R.5172 was referred to the Subcommittee on Health and has not seen that much movement since.
“Right now we are trying to have it included in a forthcoming moving legislative vehicle, including potentially a relief package dedicated to COVID relief,” Fox said.
Whether or not the bill can make it through both chambers of Congress is unknown, but the issue of opioid abuse should still be important to Missourians.
For the last three years, the rate of opioid-related deaths has decreased across the country, Fox said. In Missouri, the rate has been consistently rising, he added.
“In fact from 2017 to 2018 we saw a roughly 19 percent increase in opioid-related deaths in Missouri alone which is interesting; considering the overall trend in the country was trending downward while Missouri seemed to be trending up,” Fox said.
Another point mentioned was that solving the problem of the unneeded prescription drugs in communities could be solved by more options to patients to deal with pain after surgery. The state of Missouri has such an abundance of opiates prescribed; it would allow every Missourian to have a stash of 52 pills of their own.