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6 Facts About the Opioid Crisis in America


Opioid use in America dates back to the Civil War — when battleground medics relied on morphine to anesthetize wounded soldiers. Afterward, these soldiers quickly developed an opioid addiction. Unfortunately, opioid addiction did not end after the Civil War. Rather, its widespread use has reached epidemic proportions. Here’s what you should know about the opioid crisis in America.

America Has a High Consumption Rate

Opioid medications work so well because they stick to the receptors in the spinal cord and brain, blocking pain signals. Codeine and morphine come straight from the poppy plant, which is found growing in Asia. These are the go-to drugs for many addicts.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are partially synthetic opioids, developed in labs using synthetic ingredients. As of 2015, Americans used almost 100 percent of the whole world’s hydrocodone consumption, or 99.7 percent, which strongly points to a substance abuse issue.

Addiction Affects Future Treatment Options

Most people begin using opioids quite innocently to take care of pain. But over time, their bodies become physically dependent on the drug, which leads to opioid addiction. If they try to stop taking their medications “cold turkey,” they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms make it difficult for users to quit using the drug once the addiction has set in.

To further complicate matters, treatment for chronic pain becomes a problem for patients struggling with opioid dependence. Midwest Institute for Addiction explains, “for these clients, their choices are often limited to continued dependence on opiate pain medications or learning to tolerate pain throughout their daily lives.” While there are other ways to manage pain, opioid abuse affect the treatments options that patients have later in life.

The Anti-Heroin Act Tried to Ban Opioids

The Anti-Heroin Act was written in 1924 to ban the production and sale of heroin in the U.S. Oxycontin, which is a longer-acting form of oxycodone was marketed in 1995 by Purdue Pharma. Now, people struggling with a dependence on opioids are entering drug rehab.

In August, 2017, President Trump held a press conference on opioids, but he did not declare a national public health emergency.

It’s a National Public Health Emergency

In February, 2018, the Trump administration authorized the acting director of the Department of Health & Human Services to declare a public health emergency, which is less urgent and not as expansive as a national emergency.

There’s a Record-Setting Number of Deaths

U.S. News says that about 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. This number doesn’t differentiate between deaths from heroin or prescription opioids.

In 2016, more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses — this destroys the record of 2015. Drug rehab facilities are hard-pressed to deliver needed services to clients suffering from an addiction to opioids.

Millennials Steer Clear of Opioids to Treat Pain

This demographic has been listening to news reports. People born between 1981 and 1997 — Millennials — are more likely to choose a different pain management method rather than asking for an opioid prescription. In contrast, Baby Boomers, born between 1948 and 1964, are more likely to have requested opioids for pain relief.

As a national health emergency, it’s important to understand the basics of the opioid crisis in America. While there is no easy fix for such an extensive problem, staying informed is a simple way to get involved.  



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