A Brief Summary of The Opiod Crisis Going On In America

The news of an “Opioid Crisis” has been floating around as Americans are rapidly abusing such addicting drugs. However, I personally had not woken up to the severity of the problem until October, when a person I had known from high school overdosed, devastating many of my friends back home. Although I have unfortunately seen others in my high school struggle with opioid use, the death of someone so young made me want to look into the problem at hand.

 

CNN.com states that according to the most recent government numbers, the number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased 533% between 2002 and 2016.

 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “every day more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.” But what is an opioid? Opioids include prescription pain relievers, illegal drugs such as heroin, and synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl. These drugs block the receivers in the brain that are in control of emotions and pain, all while increasing dopamine in reward areas resulting in euphoria that keeps the user coming back for more.

On October 26th, President Trump issued a public health emergency; however, has not yet requested funds towards the issue, which has left many to believe his plans fall short of what is needed. Sen. Edward J Markey says, “America is hemorrhaging lives by the day because of the opioid epidemic, but President Trump offered the country a Band-Aid when we need a tourniquet.”  Such plan involves advertising, motivation to create non addictive painkillers, training for federally employed prescribers, blocking of fentanyl shipments, and Medicaid funding for drug rehabilitation facilities.

With the attention this crisis has received, the topic of white privilege has come up a lot in the media, bringing up the view that the media often expresses the opioid epidemic regarding white drug users in a sympathetic tone which thus leads to sympathetic policies. Tessie Castillo of the Huffpost states, “It’s not enough to simply point out that the response to drug use is more compassionate now because users are white. That is only a piece of the problem. Many people now know that responses to drug use is racially biased, yet we continue to push for opioid-centric programs, which sets us up for a return to punitive policies once the drug du jour changes and the user demographic shifts hue.”

In 2015, around 27,056 caucasians, 2,741 african americans, and 2,507 hispanic deaths due to opioid overdoses were reported (some data varies due to insufficient data for confidentiality, or unreported numbers). As you can see based on the differences in these numbers, it’s no surprise that such statistics have sparked an intense conversation regarding the motivation of this crisis and the approach to terminate it. After researching the opioid crisis for myself, I’ve found that no matter what your beliefs/political views on the crisis and how it is being approached, the reality is that the number of deaths is escalating terrifyingly quick, and although there is much variation in the statistics, opioids are taking the lives of loved ones no matter the race, no matter the age, everyday.