Research paper on Opioids and the roles of healthcare

Opioids are a class of powerful pain medications that is prescribed by doctors and other healthcare professionals for patients that suffer acutely from chronic pain. The rise of these products has transitioned from legitimate use to dependence and now abuse (The Quad, 2019). By understanding the study of Political psychology in the field of Obedience and Conformity, will further explain the rise of such an anxiety-inducing political event in the United States. This informative essay will discuss the importance of opioids, why they are misused, the rise of abuse, and tactics along with legislation to improve this crisis.
The use of opioids has been prevalent in various civilizations to reduce pain and discomfort for millennia. Due to the advancement of technology and mass production, opioids have now been reengineered and act as a cornerstone too many medical procedures and treatments. These medications (e.g. Morphine, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, and Percocet) have helped countless people, but are now reaching levels of misuse along with abuse of these products (The Quad, 2019). This topic’s implications are ubiquitous, as many people, one way or another will eventually have to utilize these medications due to injury, surgery, or other extraneous circumstances. This crisis has evolved from originally being solely a state issue medical problem to that of federal political policy. The statistics display that “on average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose” and this is not attributed to a single state, but nationwide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
In the journal of Political Psychology authors, Van der Toorn and colleagues discuss how powerlessness fosters system justification. The study conducted two cross-sectional surveys and three experiments on this correlation. Instead of low power individuals wishing to fight back the hierarchy, they accept the order of the day and healthcare professions by the system. In other words, those who “have shown that subjective feelings of powerlessness increase the perceived legitimacy of authorities and institutions” and will support obedience to them (Taber et al., 2015, pg. 106). Similar to that phenomenon, healthcare professionals prescribe these opioids and patients adhere to their instructions. Many patients believe in the legitimacy of these professions and the authority they lack. This relationship is reciprocal, as doctors aim to bring ease to patients and patients themselves believe doctors as legitimate to aid them to feel less pain/discomfort. This dichotomy has led to “almost 400,000 people [dying] from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids” which will continue as the illicit manufacturing of fentanyl and other combinations of drugs are in the streets (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). These illicit opioids are versatile as they are mixed with legal and illegal substances; further, as they are colorless, odorless, and tasteless; it can be difficult to trace and present uncontrolled potency to overdose.
Furthermore, the heightened increase of opioid prescriptions is similar to that of the Milgram experiment. Stanley Milgram was a social psychologist at Yale University during the 1970s who wanted to understand how citizens will inflict an electric shock to another person because an authority told them to do so (NPR Staff, 2013). The method of the experiment had an experimenter, a teacher, and a learner who acted as a participant even though he/she was part of the research team. Only the experimenter and learner knew that the induced shock by the teacher was merely a noise. The experimenter advised the teacher to follow the instructions and to increase the voltage each time the learner gets the question wrong. The teacher followed instructions to a point, but wanted to quit as he/she felt that they were doing too much harm. The experimenter told the teacher to continue and assured that he/she will take responsibility.
Although, the Milgram experiment is still considered to have many concerns as mentioned by Thomas Blass from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. A chief concern that was presented in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology by the author was that “the gap between estimated and actual obedience rates is often quite a bit smaller than what Milgram found” and that people don’t become as obedient so quickly (Blass, 1999, pg. 972). However, in our current Opioid Epidemic, doctors are trusting pharmaceutical companies who supply these opioids to market the same way participants trusted the researcher in the Milgram experiment. These pharmaceutical companies are reputable organizations that have researched the drug with trials and patents. The doctors trust that they are noteworthy and even receive a sum of profit when they prescribe opioids to patients. In many cases, this relationship is mutually beneficial, as pharmaceuticals increase overall profits and doctors are incentivized through discounted rates. The problem, however, occurs when doctors and healthcare professionals are continually pushing these products, causing negative externalities as people move from legitimate use to misuse to later abuse. Opioids block receptors to pain and release the neurotransmitter dopamine that elicits euphoria, showcasing the dilemma of opioids, as it is beneficial to have to reduce pain/discomfort, but also it poses a hazard for those who desire to seek heavier recreational drugs.
Subsequently, patients are encountering opioids at a higher rate than ever before. The Opioid Epidemic in the United States is an anxiety-inducing political event that has now reached into the streets, affecting society as a whole. Those who once were on prescription opioids are now looking for cheaper alternatives to use in order to reach that euphoric high such as heroin and other cuts of Fentanyl which are “similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent” and are easily accessible through illegal means (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019). It is important to understand that it is not the patient's fault into becoming addicted to this rush for these products: once individuals feel that sense of power or bliss, they convince themselves and others to have more of it. As shown in the Stanford Prison Experiment, which was conducted in 1971 by Philip Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. The study used 24 students, half played as prisoners and the other half played the role as guards. As the study continued, the guards became increasingly abusive to the prisoners to the point where the study had to be shut down after only 6 days rather than the whole two-week duration (The Stanford Prison experiment, n.d).
Professor Zimbardo noticed that the students who played as guards became more violent, dehumanizing, and unempathetic not because they are dispositional to these tendencies, but because they adapted to the situation. This is known as the Situational hypothesis, which states that human behavior is greater in line with the influence of social situational variables. This is showcased in the Opioid Crisis Epidemic as well. Many of these patients had to take opioids due to injury, surgery, or another situational event, and due to the potency of these drugs has led them to become addicts, or even worse: death. The conformity aspect is evident as people are convincing others to use opioids and due to the situational approach have now become addicts to these once beneficial medications. Opioid use, if unmanaged, will lead to increasing drug-related conflicts/crimes, loss of employment, and increased feelings of depression. Unlike the Stanford Prison experiment that was able to end this uncontrollable nature, the United States continues to face this epidemic like our neighboring country, Canada that has also seen a sharp rise in opioid-related deaths.
Consequently, there have been strides in combatting this Opioid Epidemic such as improving data quality; supporting healthcare providers to provide improve opioid prescribing, increasing public safety and encouraging consumers to make safe choices (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). These protocols will aid those who require opioids and limit those who have become victims of misuse/abuse from spreading to our families and coworkers. A recent legislation signed by President Trump back in September 2019 has allowed an additional “$1.8 Billion in Funding to States to Continue Combating Opioid Crisis” and are “seeing the first drop in overdose deaths in more than two decades” which is a positive trend that needs to continue (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019). Greater state funding will aid in programs for addicts and facilitate proper management of these narcotics.
In conclusion, this paper has discussed the Opioid Epidemic as a new political event in the United States. The Van der Toorn article, Milgram experiment, and Stanford Prison experiment were discussed and how the finding in such works apply to the Opioid Epidemic. This issue of drugs like opioids affects everyone, as they do not differentiate if one is young, old, Republican, Democrat, black, or white. Opioids are needed to reduce pain, but also must be managed due to its addictive nature. There have been strides in limiting addicts and the new legislation by President Trump has the potential in aiding in the fight due to additional state funding. For the readers, the best outcome is to promote collaboration and spread the message of the rise of opioids. By more people coming together under a common goal, it will help those who are struggling with opioid dependence and lobby for change in proper legislation in healthcare.
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