Ohio, second only to West Virginia in Opioid overdose deaths, plans on providing $3 million to a tech company that is developing an abuse-resistant prescription painkiller in an effort to combat the Opioid epidemic in the state.
Elysium Therapeutics is the developer of this new painkiller and has received this money after Governor John Kasich approved $20 million in grants to utilize high-tech solutions to treat the opioid crisis. At this point, they are waiting for the funding to be released so they can get working on this new medication.
At first, this plan might seem like a lightbulb moment for most – “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before,” they might be thinking. In an ideal world, a prescription painkiller that is in no way addictive would be a welcomed asset. However, the United States is now far beyond making prescription painkillers non-addictive. To better understand this progression, it is important to understand how we as a nation got to this point.
How Did the Opioid Epidemic Start?
In the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies developed several different prescription pain medications that were slated to help effectively treat physical pain caused by a variety of different conditions, ranging from surgical procedures to chronic pain. At this time, these companies marketed their medications (including OxyContin) as having no abuse potential. They reassured physicians that these medications would not lead to the development of addictions and that they were safe to use in the treatment of patients with various forms of pain.
As a result, physicians across the country began prescribing medications like Vicodin and Percocet at astonishingly high rates, specifically because they believed the pros outweighed any cons by a long shot based on what they have been told. As they continued to prescribe these medications, physicians noticed that their patients were developing dependencies on them. However, by that time, it was too late to turn back the hands of time.
Fast forward to 2011, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that the United States was in the midst of an opioid epidemic. With millions of people hooked on prescription painkillers, statistics projected that even more people would be addicted to these drugs in no time. And while that is partly true, that number is nowhere near as high as originally projected because of an unforeseen plot twist.
For the majority of prescription painkiller users, the cost of upholding their habit quickly became too much. Users began turning to heroin, which was (and continues to be) much more affordable and easier to obtain. Slowly but surely, those who were once abusing prescription painkillers began abusing heroin instead.
Today, heroin use is at an all-time high – as is fentanyl use. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid medication that is more potent and powerful than both morphine and heroin. It is sold in its purest form, however, the biggest problem the country (and Ohio in particular) is facing is that dealers are now lacing heroin with fentanyl. Consumers do not know that when they make their purchases, which causes them to experience many different effects than intended, including overdose. An example of this would be Demi Lovato’s most recent relapse. Tests showed that Lovato was abusing what she thought was pure OxyContin, however, it was laced with fentanyl. As a result, she suffered a near-fatal overdose. She is just one of the hundreds of people per day who experience this very situation.
You might be wondering how all of this pertains to a tech company making an abuse-resistant opioid. For starters, many people believe that this idea will be fruitless in the end.
Potential Downfalls of an Abuse-Resistant Painkiller
Those close to the opioid epidemic are concerned that this money is going into something that will not help eradicate as much of the opioid epidemic as Elysium and Governor Kasich think it might. Dr. Molly Rutherford of Bluegrass Family Wellness in Kentucky states that “in my experience, abuse-deterrent technology does nothing to address addiction”. She also states that the “heroin horse is out of the barn,” meaning that more people are moving to the use of heroin and fentanyl instead of continuing to abuse prescription painkillers.
The CEO of Elysium, Greg Sturmer, states that “those who are currently addicted (to heroin and fentanyl), yeah our opioids are not going to have that great of an impact on them”. He added that their goal is to “disrupt the progression of people who start with oral opioids”.
While this new medication might hold promise for those who are being prescribed prescription painkillers or those who are going to require them in the future, it does nothing to help those who are currently addicted to heroin and fentanyl – essentially the majority of those who are fueling the opioid crisis.
Studies show that to this day, the best and most effective way to manage the disease of addiction is through professional treatment. Within a professional treatment setting, those who are addicted to any type of Opioid will receive medical and psychiatric care that can help them develop the skills needed to manage their disease for their lifetime. And while an abuse-resistant painkiller may hold promise in preventing people from developing an addiction to Opioids, it does not hold much hope for those who are currently grappling with an Opioid use disorder. Therefore, it is important that resources are directed towards providing treatment options for those who are currently in the throes of Opioid addiction.
If you are addicted to Opioids, you do not have time to wait around for someone or something to come about and pull you out of your addiction. It is up to you to reach out for professional care that will help you stop the physical act of abusing Opioids and learn how to manage your disease to the best of your abilities.
You are not alone. You are one of the millions of people currently addicted to Opioids, and you do not need to fade off into the distance. Contact us right now to get the help that you deserve.