Modern medicine can save lives and improve the quality of our lives. That is, when we let it. Sometimes, we don’t use the tools at our disposal, which may cause grave consequences.
Vaccines are one example of life-saving tools. They’re also tools that increasingly large numbers of people don’t seem to be utilizing. This is evident in the fact that a number of U.S. states experienced measles outbreaks in 2018 and 2019.
For example, there were more than forty cases of measles in the state of Michigan as from January 2019 to the middle of April 2019. Although this figure was reported only four months into the year, it already marked the highest number of measles cases in Michigan since 1991.
From January 1 to May 3, 2019, “764 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 23 states,” reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC said that “[t]his is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.” Since these figures only cover January to early May, one wonders how many total cases will occur in 2019.
If people receive two doses of a combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), the vaccine is 97 percent effective in preventing measles. A single dose will prevent measles 93 percent of the time. If more people are vaccinated, more people are protected from the disease. More vaccinations mean that fewer people are exposed to the disease and fewer people may contract it, a phenomenon known as herd immunity.
Clearly, vaccines are a good way to prevent disease. Not using them can needlessly expose us to danger. Similarly, there are options to treat drug addiction and alcohol abuse that people aren’t using enough or just don’t use at all.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is one such option. MAT uses medications to help people wean people off of drugs. Medications may help people with cravings for drugs, especially opioid drugs such as morphine, heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin), Vicodin (a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen), and others.
In addition, MAT’s prescription medications may help ease painful and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms may help people stay sober and reduce their temptations to use alcohol or their drugs of choice.
People are sometimes reluctant to use MAT because they fear that it’s replacing one drug addiction for another. They may not use MAT treatment because it’s not available in their area or it may be expensive. Similarly, people may be afraid to use MAT or other treatment tools such as therapy to treat their drug and alcohol abuse because they’re afraid that therapists or other people will judge them.
If people don’t seek help to prevent potential medical conditions such as measles or treat existing conditions such as drug addiction, they may face negative outcomes. If we have vaccines, MAT, and therapy at our disposal, shouldn’t we use them to produce more positive outcomes?