State of the U.S. Opioid Epidemic: 5 Facts to Know

State of the U.S. Opioid Epidemic: 5 Facts to Know

In 2015, 20.5 million Americans are recorded to have substance use disorder. The recorded drug overdoses among users have reached more than 52,000 deaths in a year, killing more people than car crashes, gun violence, or HIV.

Dealing with drug addiction problems isn’t new at the Prescott House Addiction Treatment Program. But besides treatment, we want to bring awareness to everyone about this epidemic caused by the commonly misused killer drug: opioids.

Here are the facts you need to know about the state of the opioid epidemic in the US:

Opioids cause most of the drug overdose deaths in the country

63% of the drug overdose deaths in 2015 involved opioids. That’s more than 33,000 people, giving the country an average of 91 deaths per day.

Deaths have quadrupled since 1999. It’s expected to increase in the following years.

Heroin isn’t only the problem, but prescription drugs too

The spotlight stays on heroin, followed by the cheaper fentanyl. But, the overlooked prescription opioids or painkillers actually cause more deaths and addiction.

During the 90s, pharmaceutical companies pushed painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin as a safe treatment for America’s serious pain problem. Painkillers have been accessible and easily prescribed by doctors.

In 2012, US doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Painkillers are indeed easy to get. But, when these can’t satisfy the users anymore, most of them turn to a cheaper and more accessible drug: heroin.

Epidemic leads to foster care crisis

The opioid epidemic also affects the children addicted and overdosed parents leave behind. The increase of deaths from opioid overdose made a rising demand for foster home placement.

The increased demand makes child welfare agencies struggle in finding foster parents and taking care of the children’s health.

Americans take more opioids than any other country

Among the 25 top opioid-consuming countries, the United States is at the top taking far more opioid doses than any other country.

USA’s heavy consumption may be due to its loose restrictions on aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies and its culture of avoiding pain.

Painkillers don’t end chronic pain

Painkillers are often prescribed even there isn’t any evidence about it effectively treating chronic pain.

The longer the period a user needs to take prescribed opioids, the higher the risk of his/her drug dependency.

What’s more? The long-term use of opioids can result in higher levels of pain. Users who stop using opioid medications can feel a sudden surge of pain, worse than what they felt before taking medications.

Moreover, constant intake of painkillers creates tolerance. When a user stops, he/she will experience a new kind of pain due to drug dependence withdrawal. This encourages the user to take more or shift to a stronger drug.

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