The opioid problem has become so pronounced in this country that it is now considered an epidemic. For the second year in a row, the life expectancy of the average American has dropped, primarily due to premature deaths from opioid overdoses. In 2016 alone, more people in this country lost their lives to drug overdoses than have ever died from HIV/AIDS, car crashes, or gun violence in any other single year.
Our current drug epidemic involves its share of illegal drugs, but that is not entirely how it began. Just a few decades ago, the way that this country views pain, medical care, and prescription medications took a dangerous turn. That and the push from those who stand to gain financially from these drugs are the main catalysts for this nation’s current drug crisis.
A Shift in How Pain Was Viewed
The root of the current drug crisis lies with the overprescribing of prescription medications, which began in the 1960s with benzos such as Valium and then took off in the 1980s with opioids. Physicians began prescribing increased amounts of opioids in the 80s, with the belief that they were providing compassionate care to patients suffering from pain issues. Prior to the 80s, pain had been considered a signal that something was amiss in the body’s systems, a potential warning sign of an injury or illness. That narrative changed. By the 80s, pain was considered “bad” and a pain pill was the ideal quick fix.
The Deep Pockets Funding Our Addiction Crisis
At the same time that there was a shift in the way physicians viewed and treated pain, there were forces at work behind the scenes making sure that opioid pain medicines were being prescribed in record numbers. Big Pharma, the nickname assigned to the largest players in the pharmaceutical industry, launched a campaign to push doctors to prescribe even more pain medications to patients, even “sponsoring” studies based on false science. All the while, more physicians had moved from private practices to large healthcare organizations, all of which rely on billing and patient satisfaction scores for their bottom line results.
When Prescription Painkillers Are Not Enough
The overprescribing of opioids is continuing in this country. There have been some new laws, training, and safeguards put in place on the state level, but much more needs to change in the country’s system before it will make a viable difference. For prescription opioid addicts who have been unable to access their drug of choice, the alternative is tragic and often deadly.
Many addicts with an opioid use disorder have either begun buying their drugs on the street or have turned to a much cheaper alternative, heroin. In fact, 80 percent of heroin users attribute their addiction to prescription opioids. Because heroin is illegal just about everywhere on the planet, it is completely unregulated and dangerous. Heroin alone killed roughly 15,400 Americans in 2016. Unfortunately, some addicts are also turning to synthetics such as Fentanyl, where overdose deaths rose 540 percent in just three years.
One of the myths about addiction is that there is no hope for recovery. This simply is not the case.
Where People Can Go For Quality Addiction Treatment
About 50 percent of the people who seek help for their substance use disorder find recovery, which is equivalent to the recovery rates for people who seek help for depression. The fact is that there is qualified addiction treatment available in this country as well as support services to help maintain a healthy and active lifestyle without the use of drugs. If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with opioid addiction, we understand your pain and struggle.