It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic is a huge problem in the United States. Opioids are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year, and the number keeps growing.
One of the main reasons for this epidemic is that it’s easy for people to get their hands on prescription opioids illegally. How does it happen, and what can be done to prevent it? These questions must be understood by anyone who suffers from or knows someone suffering from an addiction.
How People Obtain Opioids Illegally
There are a few ways that people can get their hands on opioid prescriptions illegally. Going to multiple doctors and lying about their pain in order to get multiple prescriptions is the most common.
Another way is by stealing pills from family members or friends who have legitimate prescriptions. People also buy opioids off the black market or through online pharmacies. And some forge prescriptions or are able to get access through doctor shopping.
Why People Risk Breaking the Law
Legitimate pain management can be expensive and time-consuming. People may not have the resources or patience to go through legal channels, so they turn to illegal means instead. Additionally, they may know about their addiction and not want to seek help from a doctor.
Patients could be ashamed or in denial and believe that they can handle the addiction on their own. However, obtaining opioids illegally is incredibly risky.
Some of the risks associated with obtaining opioids illegally include overdose, arrest, and death. People who buy opioids off the streets don’t know what they’re getting, so it’s easy to accidentally take too much and overdose, or to take what they think is an opioid but in actuality is fentanyl. Just 0.07 ounces of fentanyl is enough to cause immediate death, and access to life-saving substances such as Narcan may not be immediately available.
Preventative Measures: How Can We Stop Illegal Access to Opioids?
Increasing access to legitimate pain management is one way of preventing these often tragic outcomes. We can do this by making sure that insurance covers pain management treatments. Also by training more doctors in how to properly treat chronic pain.
Additionally, we need to destigmatize addiction and make it easier for people to seek help. We can do this by providing more resources for addiction treatment and breaking down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help. Finally, we need to educate people about the risks of obtaining opioids illegally. We need to provide them with information about how to get help if they’re struggling with an addiction.
Resources for Help With Opioid Addiction
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to opioids, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available, and you don’t have to go through this alone. Consider the following resources to obtain help.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline offers 24/7 free and confidential treatment referral and information services for individuals and families facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. This service is available in English and Spanish. Call 800-662-HELP (800-662-4535) or visit the online treatment locators.
- Your State’s Department of Human Services Opioid Treatment Program Directory provides a list of opioid treatment programs by county.
- The American Society of Addiction Medicine offers a searchable directory of physicians who specialize in addiction medicine.
- The American Academy of Pain Management provides a list of pain management specialists by state.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a list of drug abuse hotlines, support groups, and websites for help and information on drug abuse.
- Narcotics Anonymous is an international community-based organization offering recovery from addiction to drugs through working a 12-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings.
If you think someone is having an overdose, call 911 immediately. For more information on how to identify and respond to an overdose, check with your state or county’s Department of Health.
Canadians can benefit from the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. This protects people who call 911 during a drug overdose from being charged with simple possession of illegal drugs. It also applies to people who are in the presence of someone having an overdose.
Texas law offers something similar but doesn’t go quite as far. With H.B. No. 1694, those who report overdoses are cleared from criminal prosecution, but the law is murky on self-reporters.
Do Not Let the Threat of Drug Charges Prevent You From Saving a Life
No one deserves to suffer from addiction, and there is help available if you or someone you care about is struggling. Contact one of the resources above for professional assistance. And if you need legal help, turn to Teakell Law for support. Attorney John R Teakell has fought against many of the Draconian drug laws out there keeping people in their addictions for many years. Contact him today to explore your options.