The Opioid Crisis in America

The Opioid Crisis in America

The opioid crisis, which is also known as opioid epidemic, refers to the rapid increase in the use of non-prescription and prescription opioids in the U.S. Opiates are analgesic drugs which include those that are naturally derived from opium, like heroin, morphine, and opioids. Synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl, and OxyContin also fall under opioids.

Opioids Statistics in the United States

In reference to the Drug Enforcement Administration, deaths arising from an overdose of prescription medications and heroin have arrive at epidemic levels. For instance, in 2015, there were more than 50,000 deaths in America related to drug overdoses. About two-thirds (33,000) came from opioids. This is in comparison to 16,000 deaths in 2010 and 4,000 in 1999.

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Deaths from overdoses in 2016 rose by 62% in Maryland, 39% in Maine, 35% in Delaware, and 26% in Connecticut. Close to half of deaths related to opioid overdose involved a prescription opioid medication.

State of Emergency

In March 2017, the governor of Maryland declared a State of Emergency to deal with opioid epidemic.

The director of Centers for the Diseased Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, stated that America is awash in opioids, and called for urgent intervention. It is expected that Donald Trump will set aside $500 million in 2017 to deal with opioid addiction. A commission to combat opioid addiction has already been established.

Causes and Effects of Opioid Addiction

Generally, opioid addiction appears to be an American problem. Painkillers prescriptions in America grew from 76 million to over 200 million every year between 1991 and 2011.  Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, and Oxycodone are some of the opioids prescribed. The potency of opioids increased with the increase in volume.

By 2002, one in six drug users was given prescription medications that were more powerful than morphine. The ratio had doubled to one in every 3 users by 2012.

Opioid Crisis in america

History of Opioid Addiction

In the late 1990s, more than a third of the Americans were diagnosed with chronic pain. This prompted drug companies and the federal government to expand the use of opioids in pain killers. However, some patients take more than what has been prescribed to minimize pain or enjoy the euphoric feelings they trigger. This usually marks the beginning of opioid addiction. Tolerance develops over time and the person requires using more opioid to experience the same effect. Dependence occurs when a person has to use opioids to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Government Effort

To remedy the rapid increase in the use of opioids, the U.S. government started cracking down doctors and pharmacists who were over-prescribing opioid pain killers. However, this led some users to turn to illegal heroin and other addictive drugs. As doctors tried to cut down painkiller abuse, some patients could not be prescribed opioids.

Recent Survey about The Opioid Crisis

A recent survey in Utah found out that nearly 80% of heroin users got into the habit following a prescription medication.

New laws were enacted in Maine to cap the maximum daily strength of prescription opioids and limit use to seven days. However, some doctors raised eyebrows because patients would turn to street drugs such as heroin to extend the use of painkillers. Heroin is comparatively more potent and cheaper than prescribed opioids. As a result, deaths from prescribed opioids rose by 15% across the U.S. while those related to heroin increased by 23% by 2015.

Although there was an increase in the use of painkillers, the amount of pain reported in the United States has not changed. The current use of opioids is the worst drug crisis in the history of America.

Approximately 33,000 deaths occurred in 2015 as a result of opioid epidemic. This is roughly equal to the number of deaths from car accidents, with more deaths from heroin alone than from homicides. Thousands of children suddenly need foster care following the death of their parent from an overdose.

Most Affected by The Opioid Crisis

Overdose and addiction victims in the U.S. are mostly the white and working class. As a percentage of the national population, people living in rural areas are the most affected by opioid epidemic. Palm Beach County Florida has seen deaths from overdose increase by 91% since 2015. There is a difference in the number of doctors’ prescriptions in different states. For instance, in Hawaii, doctors prescribed approximately 52 prescriptions for every 100 patients. About 143 prescriptions per 100 patients were written in Alabama. According to researchers, this discrepancy emanates from a lack of consensus among medical experts in different states about how much pain medication to be prescribed. Studies indicate that a higher rate of prescription drug use does not lead to better outcomes or patient satisfaction.

Opioid Suppliers 

The main suppliers of heroin in the United States are Mexican transnational criminal organizations. The production of heroin in Mexico grew by over 600% in four years starting from 2009. In reference to the DEA, distributors and smugglers put the drug on the streets and have become very important to the Mexican cartels.

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