Each day it becomes more and more apparent that opioid addiction and trafficking are plaguing Florida. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, five out of the nine types of drugs that caused the most deaths in 2015 were ones that fall within the category of opioids.
Two years later, we are seeing the effects of opioid addiction escalate and there does not seem to be a part of the state, rural or urban, that has not seen some impact.
Drug addiction and abuse is a major public health problem in the U.S. and associated costs go well beyond the standard medical bills. Costs related to drug addiction encompass those that result from developing other chronic health conditions, increasing crime rates, loss of work productivity and even unemployment.
In hospital costs alone, this epidemic cost Florida more than $1 billion in 2015. And let us not forget drug addiction’s impact on families and communities. The emotional hardships felt by those trying to help the person suffering from addiction are often unimaginable and the fact that their own lives are turned upside down cannot be ignored.
Understanding that addiction’s impacts reach far and wide, it becomes clear that to make any difference we need to address this issue in a comprehensive way.
Thankfully, our leaders in government are quickly realizing opioid addiction’s impacts and catastrophic effects and are taking action. Just this year, Sen. Marco Rubio was an original cosponsor of the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to help reduce the flow of illicit fentanyl into the country, and he is also working with U.S. Health and Human Services in bringing grant dollars into the state aimed at combatting opioid trafficking and abuse in Florida.
Sen. Rubio understands how pressing this issue is for Floridians, and the actions he has taken this year are commendable.
However, efforts to address this issue should not stop there. There is still a long road toward a Florida free of opioid abuse, and part of this strategy should include providing proper treatment to those who suffer from addiction.
Patients seeking help in their recovery should have adequate access to all FDA-approved treatment options, including those which are non-opioid based. People can react differently to the same medication. What works for some will not necessarily work for all, and treatment should ultimately depend on the patient and the health care professional overseeing their recovery.
The goal here is to reduce and even eradicate addiction in the state of Florida to provide a more safe and promising future for everyone. Every Floridian can benefit from a reduced incidence of opioid addiction and abuse, so why not do everything we can to help those who need it most?
Cheryl Elias is Executive Director of the U.S. Rural Health Network, an organization dedicated to creating and maintaining a dialogue between national health care advocates and rural communities.