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The Opioid Addiction Epidemic and Its Impact on Farmers and Farm Workers

The Opioid Addiction Epidemic and Its Impact on Farmers and Farm Workers
The opioid addiction problem in the United States has reached a crisis stage, with the number of overdose fatalities rising dramatically every year. Although this might seem to be an urban phenomenon, the nation’s farmers have been significantly affected too.

Farmers and the rural residents they hire may avoid seeking assistance through rehab services. They may fear the stigma and possible negative judgments of their neighbors. They worry about how they will pay for treatment. They don’t know how they’ll manage taking time away from work.

It can be crucial for their family members and close friends to persuade their loved ones to get professional help for this serious and sometimes lethal problem.

Definitions

An opiate is a natural drug derived from opium, such as morphine and codeine. Traditionally, the term opioid was used only for synthetic drugs with similar effects, such as fentanyl. Now, opioid is an umbrella term that covers opiates and all other types of these drugs. Semi-synthetic substances are included in this category. Heroin is an example, as this drug is manufactured from morphine. Oxycodone and hydrocodone also are semi-synthetic opioids.

Many people become chemically dependent on opioids after taking prescription medication for pain for an extended time. Eventually, doctors may refuse to renew that prescription or to write a new one. This is when people commonly turn to illegally buying whatever opiate drugs they can find from acquaintances and on the street. That’s the main reason for the surge in heroin addiction in this country. Heroin actually can be much less expensive to buy than prescription opiates obtained unlawfully.

Statistics

According to government statistics, about 33,000 U.S. residents died of an opioid overdose in 2015 and about 42,000 in 2016. The numbers for 2017 are still uncertain, but the projected total is around 49,000. These include overdoses from heroin, fentanyl and other natural and synthetic opioids.

When including all types of drug overdoses, the number reaches a staggering 72,000 as of 2017. This far surpasses the number of U.S. residents who are killed in vehicle accidents every year.

The Centers for Disease Control says that opioid overdose rates in rural areas was higher than that of urban regions in 2017. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that more than 70 percent of farmers and other agricultural workers say they have been directly affected by this crisis.

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Risk Factors for Farmers

Several aspects of agricultural work contribute to the risk of opioid addiction. A primary risk factor is the relatively high likelihood of serious injuries and chronic pain in agricultural workers. Doctors may prescribe opioid pain killers for their patients after surgery, or for chronic back or shoulder pain. This leads to chemical dependency in some men and women.

Farmers also suffer from relatively high rates of depression for a variety of reasons. Extremely long work hours, financial struggles, an unpredictable environment and fluctuating economic conditions in agribusiness can cause chronic stress. If a family member is killed while operating machinery or doing other agricultural work, the guilt and other emotional trauma can be overwhelming. The occupation ranks high for suicide rates. Agriculture workers may rely on opioids to cope emotionally.

Rehab and Aftercare

Outpatient rehab is available in a large number of locations throughout the nation, although many rural residents must drive 20 or 30 miles to get there. More isolated country dwellers may need to choose a residential option, which requires making sure enough people can pick up the slack on the farm for 30 days or longer. Aftercare in the form of ongoing counseling and support groups, such as 12-step groups, helps prevent relapse.

Many farmers worry about how they will pay for rehab, but they should not hesitate to investigate their options if they are ready to get help. Although some treatment centers are expensive, others offer a sliding-scale program in which rates are adjusted for income. Some provide affordable payment plans so the entire amount is not due at once. Many health insurance policies pay for some or all of this treatment, including policies under the Affordable Care Act.

There’s no reason to delay calling rehab centers in the region and asking an admissions counselor about fees. Doing so can be the initial step toward recovery.

Summary
The Opioid Addiction Epidemic and Its Impact on Farmers and Farm Workers
Article Name
The Opioid Addiction Epidemic and Its Impact on Farmers and Farm Workers
Description
The opioid addiction problem in the United States has reached a crisis stage, with the number of overdose fatalities rising dramatically every year. Although this might seem to be an urban phenomenon, the nation’s farmers have been significantly affected too.
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bioMDplus
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Azriel Adelberg
About Azriel Adelberg

MSc Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
An Israeli born organic chemist and PROUD University of California, Berkeley graduate.

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