Good and bad sides to opioids makes battling abuse difficult - Tucson News Now

Good and bad sides to opioids makes battling abuse difficult

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, an average 91 people die from opioid overdose in the United States every day.

It's why President Donald Trump declared opioid addiction a public health emergency on October 26, 2017.

Still, the declaration falls short of a national health emergency which would have freed up billions of dollars states could use to battle it.

For that reason, some health experts say his pronouncement falls short of what's needed.

"We need better strategies that decrease our demand for it and help us move the needle on this issue," said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Director of the Pima County Health Department.

But one reason strategies are so hard to come by is that opioids are both drugs which have great benefits on the one hand and deadly consequences on the other.

"It's the most dangerous drug out there because it will kill you," said John Leggio, an addiction counselor at The Mark.

But on the other hand, even the experts say it had beneficial uses.

"If I have surgery, I would like to have access to these kinds of medications," said Dr. Garcia.

The problems begin when they are used too long or they are used illicitly. But where that line is, is still a big  question.

"As soon as I tried those pills, I didn't realize it, but I was hooked," said 26-year-old Patrick Hogan, who has been clean for two years after six years of addiction. "I was introduced to pain killers when I was in college, became addicted and eventually dropped out of school."

The experience is not the same for everyone.

"Some people take opioids and they metabolize it and there's not a problem," said Leggio. "Other people take it, they metabolize it in a way that leads to addiction."

Couple that with "pill mills", doctors who over prescribe and those who accidentally get hooked, it becomes obvious it's not one size fits all.

"That's a conundrum," said Dr. Garcia. "We want people to use these drugs but we want them to use them appropriately."

Some states, like Arizona, will limit the number of pills and number of days a doctor can prescribe opioids, which generally agreed can work.

Others believe it creates a problem for some because if the pain persists, they may look elsewhere.

Solving that problem will be difficult.

"It probably does for opioids through a physician or pharmacy," said Dr. Garcia. "It's not going to work where opioids are obtained illicitly."

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