Addiction is a chronic relapsing neuropsychiatric illness manifested by compulsive drug seeking and use. It has created a substantive socioeconomic burden on Virginia and the U.S as a whole. Prescription drug abuse and addiction increase medical expenses, drug related crime and unemployment.
Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and Virginia has not been immune. It is estimated that in 2009, the number of adolescents and adults with a substance abuse and/or dependence problem has reached 23.2 million in the entire country.
There has been an alarming rate of increased sales of methadone, Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. Here, we will examine the prescription opioid blight of Virginia and the impact by and on the addicted individual.
From Del Ray to Old Town to the West End, the consequences of opioid misuse and addiction are being felt by people throughout Virginia. Those impacted range from persons with addiction and their children and families to their neighborhoods and schools, as well as to their employers and the many City and other professionals performing their work in Alexandria.
In the year 2017, Virginia providers wrote 52.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. This is compared to the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions (as per information sourced from the CDC). This represents a 34% decrease from a peak of 79.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in the year 2012.
The rate of overdose fatalities involving opioid prescriptions rose steadily from 1.7 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 persons in the year 2017.
In the year 2017, there were 1,241 drug overdose fatalities involving opioids in Virginia — a rate of 14.8 fatalities per 100,000 persons, compared to the national rate of 14.6 fatalities per 100,000 persons.
The greatest increase was among fatalities involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly Fentanyl) with a nearly ten-fold increase from 89 reported deaths in 2012 to 829 deaths in 2017.
Opioid deaths involving heroin also rose during the same 5-year period, from 121 to 556 reported deaths. Overall, deaths involving prescription opioids have barely changed since 2011 with 404 deaths reported in 2017.
Benzos are greatly abused in Virginia and as a result, there has been a glut of overdose deaths linked to them. In a study published in the year 2015, researchers with VA, the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, and the University of Michigan Medical School found that nearly half of 2,400 Veterans, a good amount of whom were based in Virginia, who died from a drug overdose between 2004 and 2009 while they were receiving opioids for pain were also receiving benzodiazepines, known as benzos for short. These are common medications for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal.
The risk of overdose death for Veterans receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines was four times greater than for those receiving opioids alone. In addition, veterans receiving higher doses of benzodiazepines while concurrently receiving opioids were at greater risk of overdose death than those on lower doses of benzodiazepines.
According to the study's lead researcher, prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is "quite common in the nation, but especially so in Virginia and West Virginia."
NAS or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) may occur when a pregnant woman uses drugs such as opioids during pregnancy. To date, there is no standard in NAS/NOWS provider and hospital coding practices (CDC). As a result, the trends and rates reported by states vary. The number of NAS/NOWS cases in Virginia rose 11 percent in a 1-year period, from 741 in 2016 to 819 in 2017.
Of the new HIV cases in 2016, 893 occurred in Virginia. Among males, 5 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to opioid and prescription opioid abuse and dangerous behavior that went hand in hand with it. Among females, 8.3 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to opioid and prescription opioid abuse.
In 2015, an estimated 21,607 persons were living with a diagnosed HIV infection in Virginia—a rate of 307 cases per 100,000 persons. Of those, 13.7% of male cases were attributed to opioid abuse or male-to-male contact. Among females, 16.5 percent were living with HIV attributed to opioid abuse.
There were approximately 43 new cases of acute HCV (0.5 per 100,000 persons) reported in Virginia in 2016 (CDC).In Virginia, there are an estimated 40,700 persons living with Hepatitis C (2013-2016 annual average), a rate of 630 cases per 100,000 persons. A significant amount of these cases were attributable to opioid and prescription opioid use and abuse, and abuse stemming from it.
It is not all gloom and doom though: Opioid prescription in Virginia has declined — opioid prescribing has declined in Virginia in recent years, found an Iowa City, VA Healthcare System study.
Researchers looked at data on opioid use in Virginia between the years 2010 and 2016. Opioid prescriptions peaked in 2012 at 21.2% of all Virginia patients receiving at least one outpatient prescription.
The rate then declined annually to 16.1% in 2016. The decline is mostly because of less long-term opioid prescribing in the state, as opposed to short or intermediary opioid use. The results show that recent Virginia opioid initiatives may be succeeding in preventing patients from beginning long-term opioid use.
Fortunately, Virginia has numerous drug rehabs, with well stratified modes of treatment and rehab. There are many types of treatment centers in the state, such as long term addiction treatment facilities, short term drug abuse treatment, outpatient detoxification programs, outpatient substance abuse treatment services, inpatient drug abuse treatment and others.
There is a vast range of drug and alcohol rehab facilities available. They include individual psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, couple/family therapy, trauma therapy, trauma-related counseling, cognitive/behavior therapy and others, to name a few. If you need rehab in the state of Virginia, place a call to any of the available rehab centers.
If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you look for professional help as soon as you possibly can. However, you might not know where to start or the options that are open to you. Similarly, you may have little to no idea about the differences between the different treatment facilities and the programs they have in store for their patients.
Do you need help finding the right drug or alcohol rehab facility in your area?
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