Everyone is talking about the opioid epidemic, from people at your school or office and the news to the President of the United States. Unless you live under a rock, it is impossible not to be aware that America is in the midst of a serious crisis that is affecting lives everywhere you look. From the Midwest to coastal cities and all up and down America, individual families lives are being torn apart due to the effects of opioids.
The epidemic has grown monumentally in recent years. It was a focal point of the 2016 elections and now President Trump is announcing that he is going to formally declare a state of emergency regarding opioid use. You might be wondering how things got this terrible, and how the numbers grew so rapidly. Here’s a rundown of what has been going on.
What You Need to Know About the US Opioid Epidemic
It is a fact that drug deaths in America are on the rise, immensely, leading to the opioid epidemic. In fact, they have become the number one cause of accidental death in people under the age of 50, which is unimaginable. It is estimated that the number of drug overdose deaths in 2016 was close to 60,000, which is the largest ever on record for our country. In the 1980s, drug overdose deaths per year were at less than 10,000. Today, they have increased by more than 600%. So, how on earth did it get to this point?
For most people, an opioid addiction usually begins with pharmaceutical drugs in one of two ways.
- First, you have the people who experiment – taking their family member’s prescriptions and not realizing the life-altering effect it can have. Young adults are known to have parties where everyone brings a mix of pharmaceutical drugs they have collected from their family members, etc. This not only exposes you to potential addiction but everyone there is at an increased risk of overdose because you are mixing medication. Often, you don’t even know what you are taking. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and this kind of experimentation often leads to lifelong drug addiction.
- The other group of people who succumb to the opioid epidemic is those who go to their doctor for a routine procedure and get a prescription to a painkiller such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, or Percocet. These drugs are incredibly powerful, and in the same family as street drugs like fentanyl and heroin. If you get a script like this from a doctor without proper warning and education, it is extremely likely that you will get hooked, and the sad thing is that you won’t even know what is happening.
Those are two different ways of getting hooked on opioids, but you can see that both start in the doctor’s office. Once a person gets hooked on pain medication, it is incredibly difficult to break out of. You need more and more each day to feel the same effects, which leads to doctor shopping and even buying the pills on the street when you run out of other options. Buying drugs on the street is never a good idea because you never truly know what you are getting.
Heroin is very similar to many of these medications. Sadly, it is also cheaper and easier to buy on the street. Many of these people who start with an addiction to pharmaceuticals end up making the switch to heroin within a year. It goes without saying that heroin is an extremely dangerous drug that leads to thousands of overdoses each year. When you buy heroin on the street, you truly never know what you are getting, no matter how well you think you may know the person you are getting it from. In the end, they are still a heroin dealer and cannot be trusted.
This has been snowballing in our country for decades. Today, we are left with thousands upon thousands of addicted people that need help getting sober. The opioid epidemic is powerful, and things need to change in order to put an end to it. On an individual basis, knowledge is power, so make sure you are aware of what you are taking and what you are getting into at all times.