There is nothing scarier than seeing a flatline on a heart monitor. However, this scary image doesn’t have to be your reality. The facts are that the opioid crisis is a clear and present danger in the U.S.
Between June 2019 and May 2020 there were 81,000 overdose deaths in the US. This is the highest figure yet in the history of the US. Opioid overdoses are also a burden on the economy, which gets passed on to the average American. The opioid crisis is continuing to ravage through the US and the situation doesn’t appear to improving.
Since the year 2000, drug overdose rates have quadrupled. Drug overdose has now overtaken motor vehicle trauma and firearms as the leading cause of accidental death in the US. The life expectancy of the average American has plummeted since 1993, especially for those aged under 65.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the crisis costs the economy $78.5 billion every year in addiction treatment, healthcare, and lost productivity.
Today, every American is affected by the opioid crisis whether directly or indirectly. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor or whether you live in a city or rural area, everyone in the US is affected.
Even if you live like a hermit and never see anyone, the opioid crisis will impact your life indirectly.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that more than half of the people who responded had a connection to prescription painkiller abuse. 16% of the respondents knew someone who had died from a drug overdose.
The results of the study were consistent across the US in all sectors of society. Every corner of the US has witnessed a surge in opioid related deaths.
What Caused The Opioid Crisis?
The opioid crisis can be traced back to the greed of a family called the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharmaceuticals.
In 1952, three psychiatrist brothers bought a small pharmaceutical company called Purdue Pharmaceuticals. The three brothers authored hundreds of scientific papers to leverage sales of the pharmaceutical drugs they sold.
Arthur Sackler was a particularly talented advertising genius. His advert for Valium sold to over 100 million customers.
The Sackler family were all financially orientated and business-minded. Unfortunately, it was their commitment to profit over people which has led to the current devastating health crisis.
In the 1980s, Purdue Pharmaceuticals introduced a morphine-based painkiller for end-stage cancer patients. Using this powerful opioid pain medication for people who are dying had no implications of people getting addicted.
But, later Purdue Pharmaceuticals introduced MS Contin to the general pain relief market. This pill would later become the precursor to the current opioid disaster.
When the patent for MS Contin ran out, Purdue replaced it with Oxycontin as it was based on oxycodone rather than morphine which had negative connotations associated with heroin use.
Aggressive and Misleading Marketing Tactics
Doctors believed that Oxycontin wasn’t as addictive and powerful as morphine, but in reality it’s 50% stronger than morphine.
Purdue deliberately misled doctors and pharmacists to believe that Oxycontin wasn’t addictive. They also bribed doctors to prescribe as many Oxycontin as they could.
The company went to great lengths to corner the market and get filthy rich. They paid politicians, bribed prescribing doctors with lavish holidays and golfing weekends. Distributors and pharmacists would also get refunds and rebates for prescribing Oxycontin.
They even employed prominent doctors to speak at seminars and explain how non-addictive Oxycontin was.
Anyone who went to the doctor for pain would be prescribed Oxycontin. Not realizing how addictive the pills were people started to get hooked. These people included people from every echelon of society. Even sporty successful people who would never experiment with drugs were becoming hooked on opioid painkillers.
And, as prescriptions were expensive, people started turning to street heroin to ease withdrawal symptoms.
Purdue Pharmaceuticals were desperate to become super-rich and did not care about people getting addicted.
You would expect a pharmaceutical company with the health of US citizens in their hands to act with ethics and responsibility.
Unfortunately, the Sackler family behaved more like drug pushers than respected corporate organizations. Many believe that the Sackler should be in jail along with El Chapo and other drug dealers.
As if the country doesn’t have enough to content with, now the drug cartels are flooding the streets with synthetic drugs.
The recent surge in opioid related overdose deaths is due to the influx of synthetic opioids on the market.
Between 2019 and 2020:
- Synthetic drug overdoses increased in 37 jurisdictions
- In the west synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased by 98%
Synthetic drugs are man made versions of drugs but with a slightly different molecular structure to evade drug enforcement officers. Each time the authorities catch up with a synthetic drug, the manufacturers introduce another version with another slightly different chemical makeup.
Fentanyl is the synthetic opioid that is causing so many opioid overdose deaths. This synthetic opioid is cheap to produce and can be made in a lab, unlike heroin which needs poppies cultivated in a field and smuggled into the US.
Drug cartels can make billions from fentanyl and business is booming.
Fentanyl is usually a prescription painkiller that is prescribed to opioid tolerant patients. But, synthetic versions produced by illegal labs get mixed with heroin and other street drugs such as ecstasy, MDMA, cocaine, and amphetamine.
Many people are overdosing after taking street drugs not knowing they’re laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is highly dangerous because it is 50 stronger than morphine. People are not sure how much to take.
The Three Opioid Waves
Between 1999 and 2018 nearly half a million people have died from opioid related overdoses. There were three distinct opioid waves that swept through the nation. First the prescription opioid epidemic, the heroin wave, then the synthetic opioid wave.
As we mentioned before, the whole crisis began as result of the corporate greed of the Sackler owned Purdue Pharmaceutical company.
As people couldn’t afford the opioid prescriptions, they turned to street heroin as it was cheaper. This led to the second opioid wave.
Fentanyl is a cheaper alternative to heroin. It is made in a lab using chemicals bought from China. It’s increasingly difficult to police the influx of chemicals from China, Mexico, and Canada as people who buy the chemicals swap suppliers regularly to evade detection by the law. As a result, fentanyl is found everywhere in street drugs and is now responsible for the huge surge in opioid overdose deaths.
In 2017, Donald Trump officially declared the opioid crisis as a national epidemic. It has almost claimed half a million lives so far, and the death toll is growing exponentially due to the increase in fentanyl.
Many overdose deaths involve more than one drug, not just opioids. Many people who become addicted to substances build up a tolerance so they try other drugs to feel the effects.
The Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis affects every American in some way. Opioid addiction doesn’t just affect people on the fringes of society. People of all backgrounds are becoming addicted or have loved ones who are becoming addicted. Everyone knows someone who has died of an opioid overdose.
This crisis is straining the healthcare system, stresses child welfare, and hampers the economic well being of American families.
- Between 9 and 14% of Medicaid beneficiaries have substance use disorders.
- According to SAMHSA, between 100,000 and 375,000 addicted babies are born each year
- Addicted parents struggle to provide for their children’s needs financially and emotionally
- From 2014 to 2015, the number of children removed from their home by New Hampshire Department of Children, Youth, and Families increased 36%.
- Most of the 10% of Americans who are addicted to drugs are unemployed.
The victims of opioids come from all races, ages, financial backgrounds, and walks of life. As this crisis affects everyone this means that everyone has a part to play in the fight against it.
The coronavirus epidemic is exacerbating the rates of overdose as people in recovery are vulnerable in times of increased isolation. Now more than ever, people who are struggling with an opioid addiction need connectedness to stay hopeful.
The population of the US needs to come together in the fight against opioid use to make the country a better place to live in tomorrow. Rising death rates mean more misery for the nation as a whole. It doesn’t need to be this way.
The opioid crisis will get worse before it gets better. If it never gets better it will make life terrible for every US citizen.
The more people that become addicted, the more crime and death rates rise. If crime rates continue to rise due to the opioid epidemic, life could get really tough for Americans. It won’t matter whether you are in a rural or urban area, the epidemic is everywhere.
Worryingly, unless the crisis is tamed, the US could become a dangerous and lawless society.
- Every person will lose someone they know to opioid overdose.
- Everyone could become a victim of crime.
- Families ripped apart
- Grief-stricken loved ones left behind
- Mass poverty
- Orphaned children
How The Pandemic Affects Recovering Opioid Users
When a person goes into rehab for an opioid addiction they completely detox their body of opioids. They are typically given medication to manage withdrawal symptoms, and they receive various behavioral therapies to help them cope.
The real work starts when a person leaves rehab and carries on their life without returning to opioids. This is a tough challenge as addiction is a brain disease that takes a lot of patience and perseverance.
For a person to succeed in their recovery they need to maintain emotional equilibrium. If they leave rehab and come home to a life of stress, unemployment, stigma, and homelessness they will become vulnerable to relapse.
This is good to no one.
The community as a whole needs everyone who is suffering from drug addiction to start healing themselves. But, they need the help of the community to succeed. This is where you come in.
How You Can Help In The Fight Against The Opioid Crisis
There needs to be a fundamental cultural shift in attitudes towards addiction.
Medical science now officially classifies addiction as a brain disease and not a moral failure or a sign of weakness. This means that members of society need to start seeing people struggling with addiction as people who need medical attention and emotional support.
A person who is constantly treated with contempt because they are addicted has less of a chance to recover than someone who is treated with kindness and compassion.
As a US citizen, you can play a vital role without having to do much at all. All you have to do is show anyone who is suffering with an addiction a warm and friendly gesture.
If someone is on the streets, buy them a coffee. Or even just smile and say hello. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Making someone feel that they deserve to be a part of society can be one of the most uplifting aspects of a struggling addict’s day. Yes, they may commit crime to feed their habit, but this is because their disease makes them do that.
Many would choose the stance of tough love. Tough love doesn’t refer to violence, stigmatism, or ostracism. Tough love means maintaining boundaries while showing someone that you care.
Reach out to anyone you know who is struggling with this disease, and anyone you know who has a loved one who is struggling. Try to show them that you care and you are there for them. People need to know that they are not being judged and that they are not alone in this struggle.
Research shows that two-thirds of teens who become addicted to opioid painkillers do so after raiding the medicine cabinet at home.
If you have teenage children, talk about the opioid crisis. Make the opioid crisis a regular topic. Engage your children and educate them. Being honest and open and most importantly accepting about your children’s opinions will make them less likely to hide things from you.
If you take prescription painkillers keep them locked up and out of the way. If you no longer need them, discard them safely so that no one else can take them.
Help To Educate Others
If you catch others being disparaging about people struggling with addiction, challenge them.
People who struggle with addiction need as much support as possible to improve their self-esteem and self-belief that they can become substance-free if they seek treatment.
Only high-quality treatment will help to heal America’s addicts. When a person leaves rehab, they face a difficult future staying on track.
Albert Einstein said, “Peace can only be achieved by understanding.” Every person has a personal responsibility to show empathy and keep learning about others and their struggles.
Help To Save Lives
By learning to administer Naloxone, you can potentially save many people’s lives. People who overdose sometimes feel a desire to get treatment and get well when they recover.
Naloxone is an overdose antidote. When a person overdoses on opioids, their breathing stops and they eventually suffocate to death. Naloxone stops this happening.
Prevention, treatment, and education in US communities is necessary to combat the opioid crisis. As the crisis rages on each community member must remember that they have a role to play.
Be a champion in the community movement against the opioid crisis. Staying educated and equipped with professionals and people who have personally dealt with the pains of opioid addiction is vital in countering this epidemic.
You and your loved ones can help take control of your sobriety. Get in touch with Renaissance Recovery at 866.330.9449.
Our readily available team of friendly therapists and professionals will discuss the most appropriate forms of treatment available. Our team is equipped with all the knowledge to help you and your loved ones today.