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Baylee Warner

Mrs. Jackie Burr

English 2010, Section 7

19 April 2018

Opioid Addiction: How to Stop the Epidemic

Prescription opioids have been a rising concern throughout the United States of America

Opioids have been an issue since they having been putting many people at risk of death (see

figure one). Blake Harwood, Captain of the Salt Lake City Fire Department described that the

calls that he had been on for overdose patients have usually used heroin or prescription drugs.

The state of Utah has especially struggling with opioid addictions.

Kate Snow interviewed Hagan Steele who is only 9 years old. Hagan is now living with

his dad after his mother lost custody of him and his siblings for being arrested with her new

husband for doing heroin.

When asked about his time living in his mother’s house, little Hagan would say that his

mom and step-dad were never really home or when they were home they weren’t at the capacity

to take care of him and his siblings so he took on that role of caretaker over his siblings. He also

described the difficulty that third grade was for him because he would miss a lot of school. He

would miss school often since he would have to get himself and siblings up and ready in time for

when the bus arrived which wouldn’t happen a lot of the time. After school was over he would

also make dinner for his brothers and sister and put them to bed.
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After Hagan’s mom and step-father were arrested they admitted doing something to their

baby after her birth. Since the mother had been using heroin throughout the pregnancy they knew

the baby would also be addicted so Hagan’s step-father rubbed opioids along the newborn's

gums to help with her withdrawal symptoms so that the doctors would not know she was a drug

baby in order for them to be able to take her home. Once Hagan’s biological father got custody

of him the father had a drug test on Hagan and his siblings to see if they had drugs in their

symptoms. When the test results came back they realized that the baby girl had heroin, meth and

morphine in her tiny body. The two and four-year-olds both had meth in their systems. Contrary

to the others Hagan actually had no drugs in his system.

According to Doctor Stephen Minton, whom Snow also interviewed, said that there is

quite a few babies in the hospitals who are born with an addiction to drugs. It is so unfortunate

because when the parents of these drug babies hide that their babies are addicted to drugs and

take them home they are more likely to have seizures and to die if their not helped through their

withdrawals in the hospital (Opioid Addiction Has Taken Over).

Suzy Ricker works with Primary Children’s Hospital located in Salt Lake City and said

that there is always at least one child in their care who they help through the withdrawal

symptoms. In fact a research was done and they found that about every 25 seconds a baby is born

addicted to some type of drug (Munson). On NBC Nightly News’ website it reported, “In Utah, a

recent study of umbilical cords showed that nearly five percent of babies born in the state are

born addicted to opioids at birth” (Snow, One Nation Overdosed). Unfortunately the numbers of

those addicted to opioids continue to rise which, is leading to addiction to their offspring through

birth, but also sometimes just from observation.


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Why exactly are opioids such a rising problem, especially in Utah? First off, they are

becoming such a problem because they are a lot easier to get than illegal drugs. In a study in

2008 and 2009 they found that, “those who used pain relievers non-medically in the past year,

55% said they got the drug they most recently used from a friend or relative for free. Another

18% reported they got the drug from one doctor. Only 5% got pain relievers from a drug dealer

or other stranger, and 0.4% bought them on the Internet. Among those who reported getting the

pain reliever from a friend or relative for free 80% reported that the friend or relative had

obtained the drugs from one doctor and 4% from more than one doctor” (Maxwell 265).

According to these numbers most people who are abusing prescription drugs are just getting

them from a friend/family member which is extremely easy access for them.

Another reason why opioids are becoming an epidemic is because they are highly

addictive. In fact, “[t]he molecular composition of prescription opioids is almost identical to that

of heroin.” Also, just like any other drug, the brain eventually builds an endurance to opioids

which makes the person need more and more in order to feel the same level of relief that they felt

in the beginning. The longer this goes on the more dependant the person becomes to the drug and

eventually they actually need that drug in order just to feel normal and not depressed. When a

person at this stage stops the drug completely they will experience withdrawal symptoms which

include “shaking, vomiting, and anxiety” (What Are Opioids).

Since opioid addiction is becoming such a problem, how can we reduce the problem and

help those who are addicted? Throughout the years many different studies have been done to find

an answer to that exact question and there has been several viable solutions. One possible

solution is to give doctors/prescribers more education on how to effectively prescribe opioids.


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Modesto-Lowe described about how newer doctors can get confused on how equivalences

between drugs work, give the patient too much opioids, not thinking about the future of the

patient or interactions it might have with other drugs, in essence just not following the correct

procedures of prescribing these highly addictive drugs (qtd. in Maxwell 265).

Another study suggests the power of the brain overcoming the addiction. Eric Garland et

al. produced a study called “Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE)”. To

summarize, MORE is a program where the patients are taught mindfulness which had them be

right in the moment and made them focus on their senses and emotions. Similar to that of

meditating. The theory behind this test was that if they were able to reset the mind then they will

be able to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. To conclude MORE did help enhance the

natural reward system which had been damaged through the use of drugs as mentioned above.

This is a great breakthrough that the patients were able to regain some of their natural ‘highs’

after the use of MORE (3229-3238).

Another study done at the University of Utah in their oral health care department. Those

who were chosen for the study had severe addictions to drugs, couldn’t hold down jobs, and were

homeless. They then were given a free oral surgery/care to help improve the health of their

mouth and afterwards they were also given treatment for substance abuse. The study concluded

that, “​50% more likely to complete treatment and not drop out...55% less likely to be homeless

after discharge...200% more likely to abstain from drugs after discharge...300% more likely to

find employment at the time of discharge...Spending 75% more time in treatment vs. control

group [had treatment but not oral surgery]” (Mitchell). According to this study, this possible
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solution for opioid addiction could also help with the homeless become not homeless which is

yet another pressing matter in Utah.

An additional study to help the abuse of opioids is actually using another drug.

Throughout the study it talked about the goods and bads of this method and in the conclusion it

asserts,“Increased therapeutic use of buprenorphine likely will help reduce prescription opioid

abuse and misuse; however, non-therapeutic or inappropriate use of buprenorphine can cause

serious and potentially life-threatening effects among children and adults.” In other words, this

drug called Buprenorphine has been proven to help with the addiction of opioids but in turn those

who use it can also become addicted to it, and it also has health risks that coincide with using it

(Buprenorphine 1000). Because of these side effects this is probably not the best treatment

because in effect it could be exactly like trading one abuse of a drug for another.

In conclusion the best way to be able to help reduce opioid addiction would be a

combination of the above mentioned methods with the exclusion of using Buprenorphine. In

essence, doctors should be trained more thoroughly with prescribing opioid prescriptions to help

prevent opioid addictions. In addition to that method, those who already suffer with an opioid

addiction should be able to go through the dental program, and instead of the substance abuse

treatment, use the MORE treatment. If this combination of these studies are used there will be a

reducement in the number of people who abuse opioids.


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Figure One: Opioid Deaths in the United States.


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Works Cited

“Buprenorphine Prescribing Practices and Exposures Reported to a Poison Center--Utah,

2002-2011.” ​MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, ​vol. 61, no. 49, 14 Dec.

2012, pp. 997-1001. EBSCO​host,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cmedm&AN=23235296&site=ehost-li

ve.

Garland, Eric, et al. “Effects of Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement on Reward

Responsiveness and Opioid Cue-Reactivity.” ​Psychopharmacology,​ vol. 231, no. 16, 15

Aug. 2014, pp 3229-3238. EBSCO​host, ​doi:10.1007/s00213-014-3504-7.

Harwood, Blake. Personal Interview. 16 Apr. 2018.

Maxwell, Jane Carlisle. “The Prescription Drug Epidemic in the United States: A Perfect Storm.”

Drug & Alcohol Review, ​vol. 30, no. 3, May 2011, pp. 264-270. EBSCO​host,

doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2011.00291.x.

Mitchell. Libby. “U Of U Health | University of Utah Researchers Find Novel Way to Treat

Opioid Addiction.” ​Public Affairs,​ 30 Jan. 2018,

healthcare.utah.edu/publicaffairs/news/2018/01/dentistry-opioids.php.

Munson, Kristen. “A State of Addiction: Utah’s Tiniest Victims.” ​UPR Utah Public Radio, ​31

Oct. 2017, upr.org/post/sstate-addiction-utahs-tiniest-victims.

Snow, Kate. “One Nation Overdosed: Utah’s Children at Center of Opioid Crisis.”

NBCNews.com,​ NBCUniversal News Group, 1 Oct. 2017,

www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/one-nation-overdosed-utah-s-children-at-center-o

f-opioid-crisis-1059289155953.
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Snow, Kate. “There’s Increasing Concern about a Generation at Risk Because Too Many Kids

Are Liking in Hoes Where the Impact of Heroin and Opioid Addiction Has Taken Over.”

NBC Nightly News, ​n.d. EBSCO​host,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=32U2530874089NNN&site

=ehost-live.

“What Are Opioids?” ​Opidemic.org​, 26 Sept. 2016, www.opidemic.org/what-are-opioids/.