The United States, like most of the rest of the world, has had members of its society who have had problems with opioids for many decades. However, in the last two decades, opioid use has exploded. This is now being called the opioid epidemic.
Such an epidemic has increased the number of individuals affected by drug use. It is important to take a closer look into the opioid epidemic, when it started to become a problem, and what the future might hold in addressing this epidemic.
The Roots of the Opioid Epidemic
The roots of the recent opioid epidemic can be said to extend back to 1996 when Purdue Pharma introduced the painkiller OxyContin. The drug, an extended-release formula of opioid Oxycodone, was marketed by the pharmaceutical company, with large sums of money spent marketing directly to prescribers, using a variety of techniques designed to maximize sales.
Media and Marketing
Marketing also included the use of magazines, television, newspapers, the internet, and billboards. The campaign was a great success, and sales increased from $48 million in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 2000. By 2016 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) had issued guidelines advising doctors only to prescribe pain killers such as Oxycontin as a last resort.
Fentanyl: A Relatively New Scourge
By 2016, the easy availability and addictiveness of synthetic opioids such as Oxycontin meant that there were far more people addicted to opioids than a decade earlier. With no more access to pharmaceutical painkillers, a massive number of opioid users graduated to street drugs. Traditionally, heroin is the drug that many opioid users become addicted to because it is affordable and more available.
However, there had been a large influx of the drug fentanyl to the United States in recent years. Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is most often prescribed to those with severe pain, such as cancer.
However, the fentanyl that is killing people all over the United States is most often made in illegal labs. It is cheaper than other opioids, making it the go-to option.
Due to its potency and comparative cheapness, fentanyl quickly flooded across the United States. Distributors began cutting heroin with the drug, and the numbers of overdoses from opioids skyrocketed, as users were initially unaware of the dangers.
COVID-19 and the Opioid Pandemic: Making Things Worse
After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, things became even worse for those who use opioids. Stress from not being able to see family and friends, isolation, loss of income, and more caused people who had never used opioids before to use them. Many who had already been using opioids began to use more.
Problems for former opioid users were exacerbated when they became unable to attend fellowships designed to help them not take drugs.
Solutions: What Can Be Done?
The opioid epidemic continues to increase both in the number of people addicted to opioids and the number of people who overdose from opioids. Hence, we must think about solutions about how we can help to curb it. Experts suggest that we:
- Make sure that Naloxone is more widely available so that people who are at high risk of overdosing have a greater chance of having someone around them who has naloxone that they can administer.
- Make Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) like morphine and buprenorphine more widely available so that people who are addicted to opioids can use them to begin their recovery journey.
- Reach out to more people who are currently struggling with opioid addiction and, if they want help, inform them of options for treatment centers that will be able to help them with their problem.
- Continue to decrease the number of people who are prescribed addictive painkillers in instances where alternatives could be given. In the United States, there are still people who become addicted to opioids by being given addictive painkillers when a drug like Ibuprofen could have been given instead. Reducing cases like this will help decrease the number of people becoming addicted to opioids for the first time.
Realistically, the opioid epidemic is unlikely to go away overnight. However, if a concerted effort is made to both reduce the numbers of people who are becoming addicted to opioids for the first time and assure that people who are already addicted to opioids get the care that they need, we have a chance of beating it. That is why it is important to seek the best care for yourself.
The opioid epidemic has left the United States with high numbers of individuals addicted to opioids. Further, many communities around the country are struggling to overcome the opioid crisis because of the street market drugs that are available to them.
At DetoxNearMe.com, we work to help eradicate the epidemic by finding treatment for those in need of help for opioid addiction. We also strive to help rebuild communities affected. By visiting our website, you will discover all the options for detox and treatment within your local community.
If you or a loved one is currently struggling with opioid or other substance use dependency, then the time to get help is now. Find out more by visiting DetoxNearMe.com.