The Current Status of America’s Opiate Epidemic

The Current Status of America's Opiate Epidemic | Transcend Recovery Community

In December of 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug known as OxyContin. The year it hit the market it earned $45 million for its manufacturer, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. As the years continued, the amount of money that the drug made continued to rise. Currently, this drug alone accounts for 30 percent of the painkiller market. However, the real danger is that the amount of people overdosing on the drug continues to rise.

OxyContin, also known as oxycodone, is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. OxyContin is used to treat moderate to severe pain that is expected to last for an extended period of time. OxyContin is used for around-the-clock treatment of pain. It often advised to avoid using OxyContin on an “as-needed” basis for pain. Rather, it is for long-term pain.

Although the drug has provided consistent pain relief for many people with back issues, and other painful injuries, OxyContin and other opiates are incredibly addictive. Sadly, there has been a large surge of addictions to painkillers in this country and the drug can be hard to break, as many news reports, articles, and television programs are revealing. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of heroin users almost doubled. In 2007, for example, 337 thousand people were addicted to heroin in America and in 2012 that number jumped up to 669 thousand.

In fact, as the number of those addicted to painkillers continued to rise, experts called the experience an epidemic. People weren’t only addicted to painkillers, they were also overdosing on them. Furthermore, as people were becoming more and more addicted to painkillers, they were also finding their way to heroin, which is also an opiate. Someone who is addicted to opiates may use either heroin or painkillers or both to get a fix.

Opiod that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin can be ingested through injecting, snorting, sniffing, or smoking it. Symptoms of using heroin include red or raw nostrils, needle marks or scars on arms, wearing long sleeves at inappropriate times, and medicinal breath. Long-term symptoms are loss of appetite, constipation, brain damage, and damage to the central nervous system.

Heroin is a dangerous drug, not only for being incredibly addictive, but also the drug essentially rewires the brain suppressing all instincts and slowing down the nervous system. In fact, heroin is one of the most difficult drugs to quit. Its dependence rating is high and the quickness with which you become you addicted is dangerous. The same is true with painkillers, if they are not being taken according to how they’ve been prescribed. They too can bring intense side effects, particularly when the high begins to wear off and there are the beginning signs of withdrawal. Some withdrawal symptoms and side effects include: burning in the stomach or chest, indigestion, nausea, no appetite, headache, sensitivity to light, exhaustion, insomnia, and difficult thoughts and feelings.

To get a clear picture of the current status of the American epidemic with opiates, research from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) can be used. For example, on January 12 of this year, the CDC released its 2013 Drug Overdose Mortality Data. This report shows no improvement in mortality rates associated with prescription opioids. And currently, opioids rank number one in terms of drug overdose deaths. Overall, deaths from all prescription drugs increased by 6% between 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, deaths from opioids increased by one percent, and heroin deaths went up by 39 percent.

Currently, statistics and research indicates that the epidemic is still underway. Although there are many people and organizations doing their best to put an end to the opiate addiction, by providing psycho-education, opening treatment homes, and more, it’s clear that America will need much more to overcome this national wound.


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