Lately, it’s rare to go a single day without seeing something about opiates and their effect on society. While the rise in opiate has proven cumbersome on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, the healthcare sector is most affected by the crisis. Because of the opiate epidemic, the healthcare system will have to adapt to a new set of challenges. Here a few of the most significant.

Higher Demand for Addiction Treatment

Naturally, as more people become addicted to opiates and their derivatives, the need for rehabilitation services is going to grow. As a result of increased demand, prices for these services will increase. Therefore, those without insurance may find the notion of rehab to be financially impractical. Even those who can afford these services will take quite a hit to their budget.

Greater Incidence of Communicable Disease and Opiate-related Complications

Long term misuse of opiates can eventually damage most major organs. People who use opiates for long periods of time are at higher risk for fluid retention in the lungs. This buildup of fluid can eventually lead to pneumonia and permanent damage. With prolonged use, a tolerance develops. Therefore, many individuals suffering from opiate addiction turn to intravenous injection to get the most out of their supply. Using needles opens the body up to infection, and the common practice of sharing needles puts individuals at higher risk for HIV, hepatitis, and other serious communicable diseases.

More Patients Seeking Opiates

Oftentimes, opioid addiction starts in after a medical procedure. A podiatrist may prescribe opioids after a surgery to alleviate pain, but the patient runs the risk of becoming addicted after prolonged use. Medical professionals are an easy, accessible way to receive opiates legally. Because of this, a greater number of people are faking or exaggerating pain in an attempt to get a prescription. Medical professionals are being put in a tough position. They have to balance their personal judgment, the patients’ needs, and the moral hazard involved with prescribing opioids.

Increased Emergency Treatment

In the USA, the number of reported opioid-related overdose deaths has more than quadrupled since 1999. More personnel will be needed react to the increasing number of calls to EMS services for overdoses. Furthermore, hospitals and EMS services will need to be equipped with larger stocks of Narcan and Naloxone and other opioid overdose countermeasures. The current opioid crisis will be a huge burden to the healthcare system for years to come, so medical professionals of every discipline need to prepare for the inevitable challenges that the system will face.

With the new focus on the addictive and harmful effects of opiates, healthcare professionals need to be prepared for a change in the industry’s near future. The crisis is far from over, so there are things professionals need to be doing now to minimize the spread of this problem.

About the author

Anita Ginsburg

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn't writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.

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