The Heroin, Opioid Problem

heroin, opioid problemThe heroin, opioid problem is devastating some parts of Mexico. Below is an excerpt from the linked Washington Post article:

Mexico provides more than 90 percent of America’s heroin, up from less than 10 percent in 2003, when Colombia was the main supplier. Poppy production has expanded by about 800 percent in a decade as U.S. demand has soared. The western state of Guerrero is the center of this business, producing more than half of Mexico’s opium poppies, the base ingredient for heroin. Guerrero also has become the most violent state in Mexico, with more than 2,200 killings last year.

I don’t know the total solution to this problem, but I know any fundamental solution has to include prevention and treatment. I hear a lot about law enforcement, but very little about treatment — however, I did see an AP article the other day about medication-assisted treatment (I don’t see nearly enough of these types of stories). But even proven treatment methods using medication that works is still controversial. Because addiction prevention and treatment haven’t been important enough to warrant the investment of resources, there’s no consistency in quality treatment and no consensus on best practices — there’s not even a good understanding of addiction itself.

A person seeking help might find someone who recommends total abstinence from all medications, regardless if there’s a need for medication, or they might encounter a therapist who doesn’t believe addiction is a disease, or a religious counselor who believes it’s solely a spiritual problem, or someone who recommends specialized addiction treatment using medication that stops the withdrawals and allows the person to enter treatment with a long-term recovery management plan (guess which one I recommend).

But even if someone enters a specialized addiction treatment program, there’s not always consistency. Some treatment programs are overloaded and poorly staffed, so the person doesn’t get the type of treatment and long-term recovery plan that’s necessary for a chronic brain disease. Until we can agree on best practices, find a way for all who need treatment to access quality treatment, and provide effective preventive measures to present to young people before they get into drugs, we’ll have drugs wars, hit and miss counseling solutions, inconsistency and confusion regarding treatment methods, and the heroin, opioid problem will not improve.

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