CVS is Making a World of Difference to Fight Opioid Addiction
CVS – the pharmacy giant with more than 9,700 retail locations across the United States –considers itself to be in a unique position. As a major opioid distributor, the company’s leadership believes it has the power to make a positive difference in the area of opioid addiction. In recent times, CVS has responded to the country’s opioid crisis by putting forth a number of initiatives. In this article, we will talk about what CVS is doing to fight opioid addiction. We will also tell you what you can do to make a difference. But first, let’s talk about the U.S. opioid crisis.
What is the U.S. Opioid Crisis?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an opioid epidemic has swept the nation. This means that opioid addiction is ravaging the country, causing death and destruction for men, women, and adolescents from all walks of life. Addiction experts, law enforcement officials, and healthcare professionals agree – there is an opioid crisis in the United States; one of epic proportions. Opioids (also called opiates) are a classification of highly addictive pain-killing drugs derived from the poppy plant. The poppy plant is cultivated around the world in Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Asia. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Percocet, Fentanyl, and Morphine are all considered opioids. According to the CDC, the number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. This spike in opioid sales is alarming because Americans did not report more pain or disease during this period. This means that while some people are using opioids for legitimate reasons, most people are abusing them. And, where there’s opioid abuse, there’s addiction. Not convinced we have an opioid epidemic on our hands? Let’s let the statistics speak for themselves.
Opioid Epidemic Statistics in the United States
Here are some fast facts regarding opioid abuse in America:
- The number of opioid prescriptions in 1991 was 76 million. In 2013, it was 207 million.
- Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
- Six out of ten of these drug related deaths involves opioids.
- 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
- The number of opioid related deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2015.
- There were more than 33,000 lethal opioid overdoses in 2015 -more than any year on record.
- In 2015, 12.1 million adults abused prescription opioids.
- 56 percent of all Americans say they have been touched by the opioid epidemic in some way.
- The United States is the top consumer of prescription opioid medications in the world.
- Four in five new heroin users started out using prescription opioids.
- In 2015, 2.1 million adults misused prescription opioids for the first time.
- Opioids cost the United States $78 billion in 2015 alone.
- Projections indicate prescription opioids will kill as many as 500,000 people in the next decade.
Okay, the numbers don’t lie. We’ve established that we have an opioid crisis in our hands. The question is, how do we handle this epidemic? CVS has answers.
CVS Rolls Out Initiatives to End U.S. Opioid Epidemic
As a pharmacy innovation company, CVS isn’t taking a passive role when it comes to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. The company is taking proactive measures to end opioid addiction by focusing on prevention, education, and appropriate use. “As America’s front door to health care with a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health in a public statement. “Without a doubt, addressing our nation’s opioid crisis calls for a multipronged effort involving many health care stakeholders.” Calling opioid abuse among the most urgent health crises in our country, here are a few of the actions CVS has taken in recent years to live up to its commitment to stopping the opioid epidemic through education and prevention:
- Education. When pharmacists dispense opioids to customers, they take the time to educate them about the dangers of becoming addicted to opioids and answer questions about opioid dependence.
- Disposal. According to CVS, proper disposal of prescription medication is critical to keeping opioids out of the wrong hands. Over the past several years, the company has donated more than 800 medication disposal units to police departments across the country. They will also be adding more than 750 disposal units to CVS stores nationwide in the coming months.
- Financial contributions. CVS recently committed an additional $2 million to an already generous portfolio of contributions to community federally-funded health centers focused on addiction recovery and prevention services.
- Raising awareness. Through the company’s Pharmacists Teach Program, CVS has reached over 300,000 high school students and taught them about the dangers of opioid abuse.
CVS Limits Some Opioid Prescriptions to a 7-Day Supply
One thing’s for sure – if opioids addict have access to opioids, they are going to take them. Lots of them. With this in mind, CVS recently announced that beginning in February 2018, the company will only distribute a week’s supply of certain opioids at a time to customers. This is how the company plans to live up to its commitment to ensuring appropriate use of opioids, making them the first pharmacy in the United States to restrict how many pills a doctor can give his or her patients. “With this expansion of our industry-leading initiatives, we are further strengthening our commitment to help providers and patients balance the need for these powerful medications with the risk of abuse and misuse,” Merlo said. By limiting the number of opioid pills customers have access to, CVS believes it can help curb opioid misuse. The idea here is that the fewer pills a patient has, the fewer pills they will take. Additionally, where possible, the company has opted to dispense immediate-release opioids as opposed to extended-release opioids, which decreases the likelihood of dependence. With access to more than 90 million customers, CVS definitely has the potential to make a significant impact on the opioid epidemic in the U.S. with this new initiative. While many opioid addicts are well aware of the addictive qualities of opioids like Fentanyl and Percocet, many unsuspecting people begin taking opioids because of a physical need and become accidentally addicted. Limiting an opioid supply to seven days could slow opioid use, effectively putting an end to opioid dependence and, ultimately, opioid addiction.
What Can YOU Do to Help Put an End to the Opioid Crisis in the United States?
After reading about what CVS is doing to combat opioid addiction in the United States, you may be wondering how you can join the fight. Here are five actions you can take to help put an end to the opioid epidemic:
- It’s simple, really. Don’t use opioids. We win this battle one addicted person at a time. If you’re abusing opioids, get help for your substance abuse problem. When you gain victory over your addiction, yours is a victory for the collective whole. If you stop abusing opioids, your efforts help to end the opioid crisis. You may be only one person, but you matter. You count. You can make a difference.
- If you know someone who is addicted to opioids, talk to them about getting treatment. Remember, we win the war one lost soul at a time. Help is available.
- Educate yourself about opioid addiction so you can help hurting families. If you’re in recovery, you will eventually be introduced to someone who will have questions about opioid addiction. Being armed with answers goes a long way toward ending the opioid epidemic.
- If you’re selling opioids to addicts, stop. Many people don’t use opioids, but they sell them to make a buck or two. If you are guilty of selling opioids, you are contributing to the degradation of our society. You’re peddling death one pill at a time. Stop. Find a new profession – one that brings honor to yourself and your family, not destruction and death to your fellow man.
- Support organizations like CVS that are taking a stand against opioid addiction. Keep in mind that opioids are a multi-billion-dollar business. See to it that your money is going to businesses that care about what opioids are doing to our people – NOT companies that care only about profiting from pain.
If you have an opioid dependence, or know someone who does, help is available. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist about opioid detox and rehabilitation before it’s too late. What do you think about CVS’s decision to limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply? Share your comments here.