Drug Overdose Epidemic in the United States

The United States is amid a drug overdose epidemic at the present time, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In fact, President Trump, in a surprise announcement on August 10 of this year (2017) has stated that the opioid crises is now “a national emergency”. He also stated: “You know when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem.”

And nationwide statistics can definitely support this concern. In the national update disclosed by the CDC in December last year, it has reported that more than 300,000 individuals in the US have died due to opioid overdoses in the past 16 years.

Drug medications that include heroin and prescription opioids, have killed more than 30,000 people in 2014, which is more than in any year on record.

Needless to say, Trump will most likely put through executive orders for tougher penalties against both doctors who irresponsibly prescribe these drugs above and beyond the call and those who blatantly break the law just to make a profit, such as drug traffickers. Trump will probably also seek greater medical assistance for the current victims of drug abuse.

Here we will discuss at length about the opioid overdose epidemic that is currently sweeping the country and taking a large number of lives in the process.

Drug Overdose Epidemic: An Overview

The use of artificial opioids such as fentanyl and flakka is rising in the US according to a CDC report. The report states that the death rates in 2015 as a result of using these synthetic and potent opioids have jumped by more than 72 percent. This does nothing less than help accelerate the escalating health crisis of opioid addiction, now made more deadly by the influx of illegally manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs imported from underground labs in China.

Moreover, the study also found that about 21 percent of the drug overdose related deaths were due to heroin or a heroin derivative from a compound mix of fentanyl and heroin.

Heroin is claimed to be the worst narcotic in the US that has killed about 11,000 individuals in 2014, according to the report presented by Margaret Warner and her team associated with the National Center for Health Statistics at CDS. Nearly one in every four deaths occurred due to the heroin overdose that year.

Meanwhile, the opioid drug fentanyl is said to have caused deaths of 4,200 individuals in 2014, which has more than doubled in one year. In 2013 the deaths related to the overdosage of Fentanyl was around 1,905.

The director of health law and policy of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Emily Feinstein, says that the synthetic opioid fentanyl that is mostly manufactured and supplied from China is about 50 times more deadly than heroin. 

Dr. Robert Glatter, who works as an emergency physician at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says that the report exposes what we are seeing at the moment in the emergency department. He adds that there has been a great increase in the number of people who require naloxone due to the suspected overdose of synthetic opiates.

People that are addicted to prescription drugs are increasingly turning towards heroin and fentanyl due to increased restrictions and regulations against substance abuse. The alarming fact is that synthetic opioids, that are said to be more potent than heroin, are available at a fraction of a cost in the streets.

How Do We Define Opioids?

First of all, it is important to understand what opioids actually are?

Opioids can be defined as a class of drugs that includes both the natural and synthetic chemicals that bind with the opioid receptors in nerve cells and produce feelings of pleasure, and relaxation.

The paradox with opioids is that they include both the legal and illegal drugs. While we all know about the most commonly used illicit opioid i.e. heroin, some people do not know that opioids are commonly prescribed as pain killer medicines. The most widely used pain relief medicines include morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl and codeine, to name a few.

Why Do Doctors Prescribe Opioid-Based Medicines?

When we read and hear about the negative effects of opioid usage and the tendency to develop an addiction to the drug, the first question that comes to mind is: Why do doctors prescribe these medicines when they know about the threats?

The reason is their effectiveness in relieving pain. Yes, this is true. Opioid based prescription medicines, alternatively known as opioid analgesics, make highly powerful and effective painkillers due to which they have been widely prescribed and used all over the US.

Accidental Deaths from Opioids are Also Common

Large numbers of accidental deaths from opioids is another huge concern in the United States. While the majority of adults either use opioids as pain relievers or for recreational purposes, children are highly prone to their accidental consumption.

Easy access to opioids medicines is the major reason for accidental deaths. Since these medicines are usually found in a majority of households, children can access them pretty easily. While opioid poisoning is accidental among toddlers, the usage of drugs for recreational purposes is the leading cause of poisoning among teenagers.

US doctors had written 259 million prescriptions for opioids medicines in 2012 alone, American Society of Addiction Medicine reported.

Between the years 2000 and 2015 i.e. during a period of 15 years, 188,478 cases of opioids usage in children (less than 20 years of age) were reported to poison control centers all over the United States, according to a research.

The Yale School of Medicine reported last year that among children of 1 to 4 year old, a 205% increase in opioids poisoning cases and hospitalization, as a result, was found from 1997 to 2012.

Five states that according to CDC reported the highest deaths due to opioids misuse during the year 2014 were Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.

Final Remarks!

The CDC report released last month highlights the deadly drug overdose epidemic that is sweeping across the US. The dramatic rise in the deaths due to drug overdose poses a great challenge for the drug regulatory authorities and health care facilities.

Greater awareness needs to be made regarding the deadly consequence of synthetic opioids such as flakka and fentanyl as well as heroin, otherwise the drugs will continue to claim a large number of lives in the US.