The Opioid Epidemic
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die everyday from overdosing on opioids. There is a crisis in America right now where the addiction of opioids is on the rise. This shows that accessing drugs is easier than accessing help. The overdose of opioids – synthetic opioids, prescription painkillers, heroin – currently has a higher death toll than guns, car accidents, and HIV/AIDS.
History of the Opioid Epidemic
Starting in the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began to see opportunities where they could push the use of prescription opioids without being honest about the safety and effectiveness of these drugs. With companies pushing to make more money, many doctors and patients fell for the scheme and did not believe the risks would outweigh the benefits. Doctors began to prescribe opioids for all kinds of pain management due to other drugs being less effective.
Currently, America is the leading prescriber in the world of opioid painkillers. Painkillers are a quick and convenient way for doctors to help pain management. Patients who experience acute pain are often prescribed opioids for far longer than they need because doctors do not want to receive complaints from prescribing too little.
The CDC wants patients to avoid prescription painkillers by seeking other treatment options. The best option for pain management is physical therapy. This will help the root of the pain and has far better results than drugs. There are other methods of treatment if physical therapy is not easily accessible. These can include alternative medicine and non-opioid painkillers such as ibuprofen.
Harder Opioid Drugs
Due to the excess prescription drugs, people aside from patients began getting their hands on them. This led to heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Heroin and synthetic opioids are much stronger than prescription opioids. The reasons people began doing these harder drugs varied. Some people lost access to pain pills, while others wanted to seek a stronger high.
Not all people who have a heroin or synthetic opioid addiction started on painkillers. Some may have started on heroin and began the use of pain pills after. Heroin has become much more easily accessible over the years due to prescription opioids becoming less common. This has given more people to the opportunity to try heroin.
With the rise of heroin and synthetic opioids, and the attempt to crackdown on prescription pain pills, the bigger picture needs to be looked at on how to fix this problem. Currently being addressed is the supply of opioids and how to reduce it, but if the supply is taken away, the nation will be full of people who still have an addiction. People who have an opioid problem need help. They need easier access to programs where their mental and physical health can be addressed.
It’s important to understand that someone with an opioid addiction cannot quit cold turkey. This is an addiction that needs a slow treatment to avoid painful withdrawals. If someone is cut-off from prescription opioids, they will seek other ways to get high; this is where heroin and fentanyl come in. This crisis needs to be a combination of dwindling supply and easier access to treatment.
For further reading on the current opioid epidemic: