The Opioid Crisis is upon us and is only worsening. The crisis that opioid abuse has created stems from decades of misuse in conjunction with over-prescribed drugs that are extremely addictive. In turn, this has created a population of addicts who are dependent on opioids. Not only are over-prescribing, and abuse to blame, new synthetic drugs that are used to lace the common opiate, a frequent one being fentanyl, are deadlier than ever. It is far too easy to take a lethal dose of these illicit drugs which attributes to the rising death toll as a result of opioids.
The history of opioids dates back to 3400 B.C when opium derived from the poppy plant was recognized to alleviate pain. Fast-forward to the 19th century, opioids became a mainstay in the United States medicinal treatment sector and were readily prescribed for pain. After the Civil War, a staggering number of soldiers became reliant on morphine, an opioid, for its ability to numb the pain brought on by warfare (Source). From there, heroin was derived from opium and marketed as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. As various opioids were brought into the market through large pharmaceutical companies, the opiate addiction worsened. Read more about the history of opioids and how it has become the crisis of today.
So what are opioids? Opioids fit into a category of drugs that act on the nervous system, releasing a euphoric-like sensation. OxyContin and Vicodin are the top most common legally prescribed painkiller by physicians in the U.S. while heroin is the primary illegally abused opiate. Commonly referred to as ‘happy pills’, prescription opioids can be natural (plant derived), synthetic (man-made), and semi-synthetic (concocted in a lab but are from the poppy plant) (Source). Some other common opioids are methadone, propoxyphene, fentanyl, codeine, and meperidine. Read more on common opioids on the market.
Those who are addicted to these highly habit-forming drugs are often at a loss when it comes time to seek help, fearing that they may be judged or simply don’t know where to turn to get assistance. There are a variety of treatment programs available for those seeking help. Both inpatient and outpatient recovery options can reap success along with 12-step fellowships, holistic healing approaches, and medically-assisted detox programs. NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), are advocates for patients recovery and conduct research on drug addiction and drug prevention across the U.S. (Source).
Did you know that deaths by virtue of opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the last 15 years? This is a ramification of standard opioids being laced with potent additives which boast 50-100 times the strength of a normal opioid. If measures aren’t taken immediately, the U.S runs the risk of losing close to 100 citizens per day due to opiate overdoses (Source). In the U.S., over 15,000 people die as a result of overdosing on prescriptions opioids and 8,200 dies as a result of a heroin overdose every single year. That number will only increase if these drugs are kept easily accessible (Source). Read more on the history of opiates
The death toll related to illicit drugs, such as heroin and opioids, is jaw-dropping. Opioids, both legal and illegal, take the lives of more people than any other drug overdoses. More than 1 in 3 Americans was prescribed opioids for pain relief in 2015 and countless more get access to these drugs illicitly on a daily basis (Source). Read more on the current opioids fatality count.
Although the prescribing of prescription opioids has been cut down and more intensely regulated in the last several years, opioids are still very much an addiction problem across most regions in the U.S. Learn more on opioid prescriptions in the U.S.