To combat the opioid epidemic, we're taking steps to reduce risk and harm—not reduce the availability of opioids when medically necessary.
During the ongoing conversation about tackling America’s substance use disorder crisis, some have misunderstood Shatterproof’s views on the use of prescription opioids. Some think that our main goal is to completely eliminate the production, prescription, and use of these medications.
So, let’s set the record straight.
There are appropriate and medically necessary uses for prescription opioids. They are effective in treating certain types of pain, or helping people recover from complex medical procedures. And just because people take opioids, that does not mean they have an addiction. What’s more, we know that the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder actually involves a different kind of prescription opioid, which can help ease withdrawal and reduce cravings to help maintain recovery.
But, these drugs are highly addictive and have serious risks. Opioid use disorder (OUD), or what we commonly call opioid addiction, is one of those risks, and the symptoms of this brain-altering disease are debilitating and tragic. OUD includes both prescription and illicit opioids, but studies repeatedly show that nearly four out of five heroin users started with painkillers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that people who are addicted to painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin. We know that prescription opioid consumption has quadrupled since 1999. And every year, doctors write enough opioid prescriptions for every adult in the country to have a bottle in their medicine cabinet, leaving far too many leftover pills available for potential diversion and misuse.
Given these facts, Shatterproof emphasizes that we must find ways to work together to prevent the continuation of this epidemic. Some of these steps include encouraging doctors to follow the CDC’s recommendations, and implementing safety measures that prevent deadly prescription drug combinations. These steps are part of a broader systems-level approach at curbing the crisis, and are intended to reduce potential risk and harm—not reduce the availability of these medications when medically necessary.
This is why we fought to make sure that every state in America has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMPs) to help inform provider decisions and minimize patient risk. We’ve regularly shared information about the CDC’s updated guidelines. And it’s why we’re now focused on improving the quality of addiction care to align with best practices and ensure that everyone who needs treatment, gets it.
The Substance Use Treatment Task Force we launched last year is working diligently to implement our National Principles of Care announced in November. The Task Force has brought together a group of health insurers, policy experts, provider groups, and researchers to ensure that every American with a substance use disorder has access to evidence-based treatment.
If we’re serious about ending this epidemic, we must take a multipronged, systems-level approach. This includes improving the safe use of prescription opioids, having an open dialogue about the challenges people face, working together to end the stigma around substance use, and improving access to quality evidence-based treatment. We can save lives if we work together, and Shatterproof will continue doing our part.