A chilling fact of one of the current American problems is related to opioids overdose which results in the death of over 90 people every day. The growing misuse as well as the addiction of opioids which include prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids like fentanly1, has become a national crisis which is not only affecting the public health but also the social as well as the economic welfare of the people. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the total economic burden due to prescription opioid misuse is about $78.5 billion every year which includes healthcare cost, productivity loss, treatment of addiction as well as criminal justice involvement.
But what are opioids? Well, they are mostly the prescription drugs which interact with the nervous system of the person in order provide relief from serious pain. Most of the opioids are chemically related to one another and duly affect the nerve cells’ opioid receptors which are found in the brain and the body. These opioids make a lot of sense as they are appropriate for different medical conditions. Opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, etc. are quite effective in reducing the pain of people in different situations as such as postoperative pain, chronic pain, back pain, terminal illness, to name a few. These prescriptive opioids are medically useful for these conditions only for a limited period of time. However, when these opioids are overprescribed or taken by people who are not prescribed with these drugs, a dangerous situation is created. The addiction to these drugs develops and become hard to get rid of. Getting help for addiction can be a difficult moment in a persons life.
Opioids create endorphins in the body which makes people feel good. They are mostly 100 times what the body actually produces. Over the time, the drugs can cause the brain to stop creating endorphins by itself. This way, the person can only feel good when he uses opioid. This leads to addiction. If the use of opioids is properly supervised by the physician, the person gets addicted to these dangerous drugs. It can even lead to death of the person. It is found that opioid overuse can lead the person to get addicted to heroin. As per the estimation made by researchers, four out of five heroin addicts get started by the abuse of opioid prescriptions.
This is how the Opioid Epidemic developed in America over the years. At present, these drugs are sold on the street. Most of the drugs are modified such that the person can either inject of snort, which often leads to immediate high, or sense of relief that results in increased likelihood of addiction.
In the late 1990s, the pharma companies made an announcement that patients won’t get addicted to these prescription drugs and due to this, the healthcare providers started to prescribe these drugs at higher rates. This led to growth of misuse of these prescription drugs before it appeared that the drugs can become highly addictive to people. It resulted in increased overdose rates of these drugs and by 2015, over 33,000 people died due to opioid overdose. In the same year, around 2 million people in USA suffered from substance abuse which was related to these diseases. As per statistics, over 21 to 29 percent of the patients started misusing prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Between 8 and 12 percent developed opioid use disorder. It is estimated that 4 to 6 percent of people who were misusing prescription drugs transited to use of heroin. Around 80 percent of heroin users started with misuse of prescription drugs or opioids. This led to massive trend of opioid misuse and resulted in public health crisis which had drastic consequences with the increase in misuse of opioid and related overdoses. The increased use of injection of drugs lead to spread of various infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
By 2010, almost 1 out of 20 adults and adolescents, roughly 12 million people were using prescription pain medications which were not prescribed to them. However, most of the people thought that these drugs are not dangerous since these drugs were prescribed by the doctors, the abuse of these drugs lead o dependence. According to a recent estimate, young adults ranging from age 18 to 25 become the biggest abusers of these prescription opioid pain reliever as well as ADHD stimulants and even anti-anxiety drugs. In order to get high, these people though Rx stimulants will help them study better as they were under constant stress to perform better in studies.
Prescription drugs become commonly abused drugs, especially among high school seniors. Nearly 1 out of 9 youth or around 11 percent of young people aged between 12 to 25 used these prescription drugs non-medically within the past few years. Homeless youth also started to use illegal drugs at a higher rate in comparison with their housed peers.
The drug abuse problem in the USA is becoming a serious issue as more people are getting addicted to these prescription drugs or opioids to deal with stress related to studies and work environment. It has become a national crisis as more people are dying from the overdose of these drugs which is getting an alarming phenomenon. Unless drastic steps are taken by the government and increased awareness to stop this increasing trend of prescription drug overuse, the situation is going to become more precarious.