A Description of Opiate Epidemic and Analysis of the Health Communication Issue

Health communication entails the practice of communicating promotional health information such as health education, health campaigns, to influence health choices by promoting literacy (Du Pre, 2014). In the recent years, the United States has experienced aconsistent and significant increase in mortality rates due to opioid overdose. The opiate epidemic poses a substantial threat to the public health since it affects persons from all races, social classes, ages and geographical areas. According to the press release on September 25, 2017, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) launched a campaign to assist various statesin the fighting prescription opioid epidemic (CDC, 2017).Hence, this paper begins by describing opiateepidemic and then analyzesthe health communication issue resulting from the CDC press release on theopioid epidemic and providing a conclusion of the effectiveness of the health communication issue.

Description of the Issue

Opioid toxicity occurs when an individual consumes excessive amounts of opioids such as heroin, morphine, methadone,and tramadol (Oliva, 2017). Opioids toxicity may lead to symptoms such as hyperventilation, hypertension, unconsciousness,and death. Since death occurs within 1-3 hours after toxicity, it is essential to provide emergency medical services such as naloxone administration (Strang, 2014). Other long-term effects of opioid toxicity include liver damage, brain damage, and dependency.Prescription of opioid began in the early 1990s in the US. From 1999 to 2015, approximately 183, 000 persons have died in the U.S due to prescription related opioid toxicity (CDC, 2017).

Analysis of the Health Communication Resulting From the Issue

The Target Population

It is imperative to know what population the information is targeting to ensure effective communication(Du Pre, 2014). The news is vital to opioid users since they are the primary victims of opioid overdose. Moreover, the news issue is essential for persons recovering from opioid toxicity, organizations dealing with opioid toxicity management and prevention,state agencies and the general American population.

Effects of the news on Patient Perceptions about Healthcare

Health perceptions refer to the subjective ratings of the affected individuals(Du Pre, 2014). Health information may produce varying perceptions to the target audience.Thus, the news by CDC may trigger both negative and positive perceptions from patients on healthcare in the USA and around the world. There has been a perception that it is difficult to rehabilitate opioid users (Clark, 2014). However, since the campaign message uses previous opioid users to pass information on effects of opioid abuse, it may be easier for the current opioid user to stop using the drugs.

From the campaign, the patient will learn that United States Government is putting more effort to help prevent and manage opioid toxicity. The press release by CDC provides a five-point strategy as outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services. Moreover, it underlines the roles of the government which includes, improving access to treatment, prevention,and recovery services and targeting and distributing overdose management drugs.However, due to high rates of deaths from the epidemic, there may be a perception of a general failure by the United States Government in the management and prevention of opioid toxicity in the United States.

Furthermore, the message emphasizes working together of different stakeholders in the management and prevention of opioid overdose thus promoting patient perceptions that collaboration both in the United States and around the world is vital in opioid prevention and management. According to Giglio et al. (2015), opioid overdose management programs should also involve emergency response teams, volunteers, persons of good will, security agencies and bystanders.

The press release underlines that opioid toxicity is a significant public health problem facing the United States. By providing statistics on the significant adverse effects of opioid toxicity, opiate users and potential opioid users may consider stopping or not using the drugs.

Cultural Issues affecting or Affected by the News Story

Person’s habits, prejudices,and behavior are formed by a combination of biological programming and social pressures(Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014). In healthcare, communication, it is imperative to consider cultural identity, cultural factors relating to thepsychosocial environment, cultural explanation of illness and functioning of cultural elements. While some social groups, due to poverty, encourage escapism through drug abuse, others hold drug abuse with disdain thus making drug addicts afraid to seek help. Additionally, some regions and colleges such as New Orleans have ahistory of substance abuse which significantly impacts opioid overdose management (Szelemko et al., 2006).

Initiation into opiate abuse may happen during periods of quick social change, usually among thecultural group with little contact with drugs and have not taught protective behavior. Erosion of cultural identity may arise in native populaces whose cultures are destroyed by theinflux of external influence (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014).

The news release by CDC proposes the use of persons recovering from opioid toxicity to pass thecommunicative message that will aid in behavior change for those currently abusing opiates. Behavioralhealth helps in understanding client’s cultural identity. Since many persons seek social affiliations and cultural identity, using persons who have recovered from opiate toxicity will be a useful strategy in themanagement of opioid toxicity(Du Pre, 2014).

Acculturation, which is the rate at which persons identify with their native culture, significantly influence drug use(Szelemko et al., 2006). Elders from the Native American origin perceive that drug abuseis due to theerosion of traditions and cultures. High substance abuse rates often occur in people who closelyrecognize with non-native American ethics(Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014). The low abuse proportionsarise in mult-cultured persons who agree with both sets of cultural standards (Szelemko, 2006). Hence, it is imperative to consider cultural factors in healthcare communication.

Ramifications on Health Care As A Result Issue Reported

Studies show that opioid abusers are more likely to use medical services such as emergency department, mental health outpatient,and inpatients facilities compared to non-abusers hence puttingastrain on the already stretched healthcare resource (Strang, 2014). Thus Opioid abuse significantly contributes to the rise in healthcare costs. With increasing in someopioid addicts seeking for medical attention, the available health care personnel may be overworked thus negatively impacting on the provision of other health care services.Other adverse events due to opioid toxicity include respiratory depression, renal and liver toxicity (Heavey, 2017). Moreover, children born from opioid-dependent mothers exhibit opioid addiction tendencies thus increasing the cost of prenatal care and damaging the delicate health of the young ones.


Opioid toxicity is a significant public health issue in the US since it results in high rates of morbidities and mortalities. The news by CDC is vital for opiate users and stakeholders involved in prevention and management of opioid toxicity such as community volunteers, health care workers, organizations and emergency department. Since the press release provides statistics showing the adverse effects of opioid abuse, opioid users may consider avoiding opiate abuse. However, cultural prejudices, cultural identity,and acculturation may potentially affect thesuccess of the program objectives. The cultural factors have to be addressed to ensure theeffectiveness of the communication.

10 September 2019
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