Addiction is a serious issue. The fact that many addictive substances, such as alcoholic beverages and prescription pain medications, can be obtained legally does not lessen their harm when abused. Addiction is an illness and is linked to numerous health problems, including premature death.
Unfortunately, the addiction crisis is growing, especially among opioid users. Opioids are a category of prescription painkillers that are highly habit forming. According to the Los Angeles Times, 30,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. Addiction is a nationwide issue, but Eastern Kentucky is one of the worst-impacted areas.
Over the past two decades, the commonwealth has made efforts to curb problems related to substance use. In 1998, Kentucky became one of the first states to launch a prescription drug monitoring system — the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System — to monitor the medical use of controlled substances such as opioid painkillers.
KASPER has since been enhanced and now offers health care providers and pharmacies 24-hour access to prescription information that can be used to monitor and prevent overuse of prescription medications.
Policymakers have also passed the 2015 Senate Bill 192, which funded substance abuse treatment programs and authorized the expanded use of naloxone, a drug that treats opioid overdoses.
While increases in drug overdose deaths have recently brought national attention to the issue of opioid use, data have shown that Kentucky was one of the first states affected by this epidemic and among the hardest hit.
There are no easy victories in battling addiction, but there is help — and hope. A detox recovery program is designed to give addicts the resources they need to break a dangerous habit. Treatment begins with detoxification. The main goal is to provide a safe, medical detox. Withdrawal from alcohol and drugs can be life-threatening, so the process should be supervised to reduce the risk.
Medication is one part of treatment. Another is drug addiction counseling — the opportunity to talk with a professional either one-on-one or in a group.
Drug and alcohol addiction affects everyone: individuals, their families, the local community and society at large. If you have a problem, or know someone who does, seek help. There is a road to recovery.
Dr. Mazhar Salim, a psychiatrist with Baptist Health Medical Group Behavioral Health, practices at Baptist Health Corbin.