SAU Buzz

The Opioid Epidemic: Deadliest Drug Crisis in American History

by Charles Hanley
Posted on Nov 02, 2017

The opioid crisis has been named the deadliest drug crisis in American history. The New York Times reported that overdose by opioids is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, even above car accidents and cancer.

Roughly 64,000 people last year were killed because of this epidemic, CNN said. Not only are the deaths caused by people abusing the drugs but toddlers and young children are increasingly being found unconscious or dead after consuming opioids. On Thursday, Oct. 26, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, but has not allotted emergency funds to help end it at this time.

Opioids include prescribed pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. More than 2 million Americans have become dependent on prescribed pain medicine and street drugs that are opioids.

The number of opioid prescriptions increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992 to 282 million in 2012 according to the market research from IMS Health. The number of prescriptions was reduced to 236 million in 2016.

People who are addicted to prescription pills may switch to street drugs (most commonly heroin) because it is less expensive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that half of the young people who inject heroin started using it after abusing prescription painkillers. They also estimated that 3 in 4 heroin users start out using prescription drugs. The number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased by 533% between 2002 and 2016.

State legislatures are taking action, introducing measures to regulate pain clinics and limit

the quantity of opioids that doctors can dispense. Naxolone is used as a treatment for opioid addiction and overdoses, according to Everyday Health. It blocks or reverses the effects of opioids and is often carried by first responders.

Cost of medical care and substance abuse treatment for opioid addiction and overdose was an estimated $78.5 billion dollars, according to a report in the Journal of Medical Care. At this point, all U.S. States except Missouri have prescription drug monitoring programs.