The United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic that has been growing steadily since the 90’s.
91 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids.
In 2014, drug overdoses overtook car crashes and guns as the leading cause of injury deaths killing more than 42,000 people nationwide. Since 1999, the number of overdoses from prescription opioids like oxycodone (known as OxyContin) and hydrocodone (known as Vicodin) as well as illicit drugs like heroin, have quadrupled.
The opioid epidemic is even close to surpassing the 1995 peak of the AIDS epidemic, when 43,115 people in the US died from the disease.
It’s Happening Next Door
The opioid crisis is crossing over the border and effecting Canada too. After the US, Canada is the second highest per-capita consumers of opiates in the world. Officials believe this isn’t due higher chances of pain, but because doctors are taught to over-prescribe.
Who Are The Addicts?
The greatest increases in opioid use occurs among white males and now nearly 90% of recent heroin users are white and 75% live outside of cities. Research shows that America’s most rural areas are particularly at risk for opioid abuse and addiction. Some researchers think larger economic, environmental and social factors at play leave rural Americans at-risk. For example, when a rural area lacks treatment alternatives like physical therapy, doctors have to rely on prescription medications for treatment.
How Is This Happening?
Opioids are overprescribed by doctors and wholesale drugs providers took note. They’re inundating states with prescription drugs ready to sell and bring in the profits. For example, between 2007 and 2012, drug wholesalers shipped West Virginia 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills. This is enough to give EVERY West Virginia resident four hundred and thirty-three pills each. Purdue, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has profited more then $30-billion from the drug since the mid-1990’s.
People typically get hooked on opioid painkillers when they’re prescribed after an injury or operation. When taken as prescribed, it can be a safe short-term way to manage pain. It’s when people abuse opioids for their euphoric effect that it becomes dangerous. Euphoria seekers take too many pills, crush or snort the pills, sometimes even inject the powder to chase down this effect. As their prescriptions run out or doctors refuse to write them, people turn to the street for their next “high”.
The Gateway Drug to Heroin
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines that dropped the number of opioid prescriptions. As prescription opioids became harder to find, their street price went up. Drug cartels took advantage of the demand and flooded rural America with heroin. Heroin is an alluringly cheap alternative to prescription pain medication. When cartels first began to flood the market, they kept the price low at $10 a dose versus $80 for just one oxycodone pill. How effective are opioids as a gateway drug? Studies show that 86% of heroin users used opioid prior to heroin.
Heroin is three times stronger than morphine. It would take large quantities of opiates to even come close to the “high” produced by heroin. An estimated 23% of people that try heroin become addicted. Heroin is also easier and cheaper to find than prescription pills on the street, making it an opiate addict’s ideal replacement drug.
The Good News
The good news is that among drugs abused, heroin and opioids have some of the best treatment medications available. Inpatient and outpatient treatments are also highly effective. Treatment centers can be expensive, but most insurance companies will now cover your costs.