Life expectancy has decreased in the past two years in the United States and that is largely due to the opioid crisis. In response, President Trump made a sweeping speech in New Hampshire promising widespread prevention and law enforcement changes, including the implementation of the death penalty for drug dealers.
Dr. Anne Schuchat is the acting director for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She is concerned about the decreased life expectancy, saying, “That hasn’t happened since the 1960s,” but points to reforms and changes in Rhode Island as positive and an indication that there is hope.
Rhode Island’s Statewide Prescription Drug Database
Says Dr. Schuchat: “Rhode Island is one of five states that actually had some good news in our recent report. The program in Rhode Island has worked to get more and more of the clinicians registered and to improve the data that they have access to.”
In this statement, Dr. Schuchat is referencing the statewide prescription drug database in Rhode Island, a program that allows for prescribing physicians and pharmacists who dispense prescribed medications to work together and provide oversight for patients who are prescribed addictive medications.
For example, if a doctor checks the database before prescribing a painkiller and sees that the patient is already receiving a prescription for painkillers from a specialist or primary care physician, they can avoid overprescribing and potentially endangering the person’s life. If it becomes clear that this was not an accident but a purposeful attempt on the part of the patient to get extra pills, the doctor can intervene and help them get treatment for addiction. Not only does this help to connect people in crisis with treatment, but it also serves to slow the flow of diverted pills onto the black market.
Overdose -> ER -> Treatment
Another positive and proactive choice that Rhode Island is making that has proven to be successful involves increased use of naloxone across the state to overturn active overdoses that might otherwise result in death and follow-up care at the emergency room that connects those who are clearly in crisis with addiction treatment. Putting naloxone into the hands of first responders, local store owners, and concerned family members and friends has to helped to make sure that there is medical care on hand when someone overdoses.
While naloxone is a hugely important part of the process, it is only a first step in saving someone’s life. After naloxone, emergency medical care is essential, not only to ensure that no permanent damage was done by the overdose but to give patients the opportunity to connect with treatment for addiction.
An overdose is a clear sign that significant risk is being taken, and death is a very real possibility if the use of substances is not addressed. For many, sitting in that emergency room and dealing with the withdrawal symptoms that are often part of revival from opiate overdose is a loud and undeniable wakeup call that it is time to connect with treatment. When ER medical staff members take advantage of the moment to present the option of drug rehab and help to facilitate immediate enrollment, a day that was almost a patient’s last can turn into the first day of their new life in recovery. It is a practice that Rhode Island has made standard, and as a result, more and more people are seeking treatment across the state.
What Your Family Needs to Heal
If you are living in Rhode Island, you don’t have to wait for your loved one to overdose to connect them with treatment. There are options available right now that can help them begin the healing process. Are you ready to take that step?