You may have heard that the current opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history. The authorities are looking for ways and opportunities to resolve this situation. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from opioid overdose, not only for illicit drugs like heroin but also for legally prescribed opioid-based pain relievers.
The problem of the opioid crisis, its solutions, and drug information hotlines are also covered by AddictionResource. Rehab numbers, a list of national drug abuse hotlines, and additional information can be found there.
Tens of thousands of people die from overdoses in the United States every year. According to preliminary estimates by The New York Times, in 2016, from 59 to 65 thousand people became victims of overdoses; this is more than the number of people killed in car accidents every year. Roughly two-thirds of all overdose deaths are associated with heroin and other opioids. The number of deaths has risen steadily since the early 1990s, and the number of deaths from hard drugs has increased faster and faster in the past 10 years, according to drug information hotlines.
The opioid crisis has been well researched and has won the Pulitzer Prizefor work on it. Researchers and journalists have linked the spread of opioid dependence primarily to prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Since the early 1990s, there has been a medical practice in the United States that prescribes treating patients with chronic pain – and prescribing strong opioid pain relievers. According to Ohio’s lawsuit against pain relievers, drug companies downplayed the drug’s dangers and argued that addiction in patients was extremely rare and not a serious problem. This is true if opioids are given to patients in a hospital setting: even long-term use of purified heroin, which is used to relieve pain in critically ill patients in the UK, is rarely addictive, writesThe Los Angeles Times.
OxyContin entered the American market in the mid-1990s. According to the manufacturers of the drug, the effect of OxyContin lasts 12 hours, that is, a patient with chronic pain needs to drink a pill in the morning and evening to feel better. In fact, even in laboratory studies prior to the release of OxyContin on the market, the 12-hour effect was not achieved even in laboratory tests, according to The LA Times investigation. When patients complained to doctors that the action of the medicine was not enough for them, the doctors, on the recommendation of the creators of OxyContin, prescribed them not to take the pills more often, but increased the dosage, keeping the 12-hour interval between doses. As a result, people who came to clinics for a cure for chronic pain, without realizing it, felt withdrawal.
The availability of such pills is another reason for the spread of opiate addiction in the United States. Doctors, following the recommendations for prescribing pain relievers for chronic pain, often prescribed them to people who did not really need any pills. This has happened and is still happening in disadvantaged regions of the United States; opioid-based painkillers are even called “country heroin” because of their popularity in the American outback.
Sooner or later, any doctor realizes that the patient does not go to him for pain medicine, but for a drug, and stops prescribing drugs or refuses to increase the dosage. Oxycontin is also available from drug dealers, but people often switch to heroin, as well as fentanyl, which has gained widespread popularity in the United States. It is a synthetic opiate that is over 100 times more potent than morphine.
Drug and alcohol hotlines say fentanyl looks like a white powder, poorly soluble in water, even a few grains of powder may be enough for injection. It is he who is the most dangerous for drug users in terms of fatal overdose since it is extremely difficult to measure the required dose by eye. In addition, people who use drugs often do not know how diluted the drug is and what kind of modification of fentanyl they are buying – and they differ in the strength of the action. Fentanyl is sometimes sold under the guise of heroin and this usually leads to overdose.
In Canada, according to any drug hotline, back in 2015, fentanyl was declared a national threat to public health, and, for example, in Estonia, at one time, it almost completely replaced heroin. In medicine, fentanyl in the form of patches and tablets is used to relieve pain in cancer patients. Over the past few years, as the press and drug addiction have been able to draw attention to the opiate addiction epidemic, fewer addictive painkillers have been prescribed in the United States, Vox notes, but overdose deaths are still on the rise.