Lately, it seems like we have stopped talking about the opioid crisis in our country. However, the current pandemic seems to have made the opioid crisis even worse. There are a couple of reasons for this development.
Due to fear of COVID-19, a lot of people are putting off going to the doctor. Experts worry this may have led to a temporary increase in opioid prescriptions, which could, in the long run, result in a new wave in the ongoing opioid crisis.
Social distancing and Stay-At-Home orders as well as the rising numbers of COVID-19 infections have many worried and that’s why they are putting off doctor visits. This means some people are trying to mask their symptoms with pain killers until they feel it is safe to go to a doctor again. However, doctors say, if you feel sick or are in pain, it is important that you address the issue. Some severe pain cannot be treated with TeleMedicine alone. If you need to see a doctor, it is important to make an appointment to avoid long term damage that might be irreversible.
“It is very important right now that you talk to your doctor if you are experiencing health issues including pain. Not addressing these issues can mean that potential problems get worse over time causing incurable damage,”- Dr. Suneil (Neil) Jolly interventional pain physician at Louisiana Pain Specialists and founder of the S.A.F.E Initiative.
Furthermore, social distancing combined with working from home has isolated many people. Not being able to see friends, family and co-workers is putting additional strain on the mental well-being of many people. This also can lead to anxiety and depression. Some already battling these conditions have a harder time to talk to friends and family.
Due to the pandemic, some people have lost their jobs and many worry they might be out of work soon. The uncertainty of not knowing what comes next can, also lead to depression.
If you feel overwhelmed right now, you are not alone – seek medical help immediately and do not try to self medicate with opioids or other drugs.
The S.A.F.E Initiative
Nearly 450,000 people died from overdoses involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids, from 1999-2018, according to the CDC. Dr. Suneil (Neil) Jolly has been working to fight the opioid epidemic for a long time. He started the S.A.F.E. initiative which is one component to battling the opioid epidemic, back in 2016 in New Orleans. The S stands for safer prescribing which means limiting how opioids are prescribed. A is for alternative treatment options. This includes, but is not limited to, various alternatives to oral opioids such topical agents and creams. F stands for frequent monitoring. “This part often gets overlooked,” according to Dr. Suneil (Neil) Jolly. Monitoring is important to let doctors know what, or if, patents are taking the proper medications. It also provides means to find potential culprits in the opioid epidemic in our communities. Finally, the E stands for evidence-based medicine. Some physicians, including Dr. Suneil (Neil) Jolly, stay in touch with larger academic institutions and continue to publish in medical journals. This is important work to find the correct and most justified treatments for certain pain conditions.