What You Need to Know About the Opioid Epidemic



Right now, the United States is facing the deadliest drug crisis in our country’s history. The opioid epidemic has had a major effect on many lives, including mine, and everyday it continues more and more people are dealing with the consequences.

Opioids have always been a huge problem in the United States, but in recent years, the death toll has been escalating exponentially, indicating a greater use of the drug. The epidemic, however seems to have started in the 1980s, when doctors and pharmaceutical companies throughout the country began marketing and prescribing opioids for pain due to studies showing the benefit of the drug. Once people started taking opioid prescriptions, such as OxyContin, they began to get addicted to opioids and many turned to heroin to feed their addiction because it was cheap and starting to be more readily available.

In recent years, too, fentanyl has started appearing more, causing more opioid-related deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller very similar to opioids, but in comparison to opioids, it is up to 100 times more potent. Often, dealers will lace the heroin they sell with fentanyl to make the drug stronger, but they don’t always have the most reliable ways of measuring the fentanyl, which means they can easily accidentally include a lethal dose in what they are selling. Many overdoses are, therefore, caused by the drug user not realizing the drug they are taking is more potent, and they end up taking too much.

However, just completely getting rid of prescription opioids is not going to help the situation. For many people, opioids are a great option for pain relief, and they are very helpful to many people. Many doctors are beginning to be more restrictive on who they prescribe opioids to and prescribing less opioids. It is starting to become apparent that opioids still have a place in medicine, but there needs to me more regulation and care taken in prescribing them.

In October of 2017, President Trump declared the epidemic a national public health emergency, stating it was a major commitment of his to end the opioid epidemic. As part of his commitment to “be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic”, Trump appointed Taylor Weyeneth, a former campaign employee of Trump, to a senior position at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, despite his lack of experience, being only 24 years old. It was recently announced, however, that Weyeneth will be stepping down at the end of the month after an investigation determined he lied about much of the credentials on his resume.

For now, many states have declared a state of emergency and have begun starting up their own programs to help those with and those affected by opioid addiction. For example, on January 10, 2018, Gov. Wolf of Pennsylvania signed a “statewide disaster declaration to enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives”. The declaration includes 13 key initiatives to help with the crisis within the state of Pennsylvania.

Right now, the country is facing major problems because of the opioid epidemic, and there is no easy solution to the crisis. As citizens, we should continue to stay informed about the crisis and what we can do to help. We can also be sure to reach out to those that are exhibiting signs of drug abuse and recognize and seek help for any problems with drug abuse that we may have.

For more information, check out the links below:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (877-726-4727)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8522)