We are in the middle of one of the worst health crises our country has ever seen. And it’s all because of opioids.These highly addictive and exceptionally potent substances have seen a dramatic and sudden upsurge in use over the past few decades. They have killed more people through overdoses than car crashes or guns and annually leave more users dead than the total number U.S. military deaths during the Vietnam War.
Not only that, the increase in opioid addiction has also brought about a twelvefold rise in endocarditis (inflamed lining of the heart) hospitalizations, the wildfire-spread of bloodborne pathogens like HIV and hepatitis among IV drug users, and a half-a-trillion annual cost to the American taxpayers.
These numbers are daunting to be sure, but what has caused this epidemic to happen in the first place? And equally important, what’s being done to help combat it?
A Few Statistics on The Drug Epidemic in America
Before getting into the causes of the opioid epidemic, it’s helpful to take a look at some of the statistics behind this health crisis to put things into perspective.
- An average of 91 Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose according to the CDC, a number that’s quadrupled since 1999.
- Prescription opioids have become so commonly prescribed that there were enough prescriptions written in 2013 to put a bottle of pills in the hand of every American adult.
- Prescription opioids can be much more powerful than their street counterparts. Fentanyl, for example, is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
- Of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths from 2016, the biggest increase was with fentanyl which caused 20,000 deaths in 2016.
- Heroin overdose death rates increased by over 20% from 2014 to 2015, leading to almost 13,000 overdoses.
What’s Causing the Opioid Epidemic Today?
One of the primary culprits in the rise of the drug epidemic in America is the careless overprescribing of prescription opioids by physicians. Part of this haphazard distribution of these dangerous drugs is due to the pharmaceutical industries spreading unsubstantiated claims about how safe opioids can be when used for long-term chronic pain.
In fact, the CDC found that physical dependency on opioids can actually begin within just a few days of the initial use.
Beyond that, abusing prescription opioids is strongly linked to eventual heroin use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that “the incidence of heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not.”
Abusing prescription opioids, then, is not only dangerous in and of itself. It has also been shown to lead to a higher risk of using heroin as well, contributing even further to the opioid epidemic.
Treating the Opioid Epidemic, Our Biggest Health Crisis
As opioids continue to ravage our nation though, addiction centers are becoming more well-equipped to handle the treatment of this devastating disease. The use of drugs like Naloxone and Suboxone are increasingly becoming the norm for expert detox facilities and can help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, eliminate cravings, and increase the chances of a full recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction (like millions of other Americans today), there’s never been a better time to seek treatment than today.