The Opioid Epidemic in America

The Opioid Epidemic in America

The opioid epidemic has taken ahold of a vast majority of people in United States since 1992. Opioids are becoming the most popular drug of choice, creating alarming over-dose and death rates.

Prescription opioids, when taken carefully and for their intended purpose, can be helpful to those who suffer from severe or chronic pain. The most common prescription opioid drugs are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine. Although these drugs have addictive qualities, they are useful for reducing pain when taken correctly.

Problems rise when patients are prescribed these medications in high dosages and amounts. Patients who were once trying to relieve pain are now addicted to the drugs. This happens because opioids release a hormone in the brain, called dopamine, which gives a person the feeling of a high.

When a doctor prescribes a patient 60 hydrocodone tablets per month, at the highest dose, and are giving these patients refills monthly, it is inevitable that the patient will acquire a dependency to the drug.

Since 1992, the number of prescription opioids went from around 112 million to 236 million in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “An estimated 1 out of 5 patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed opioids in office-based settings.”

These drugs can be dangerous, since people grow a tolerance and a dependency to them. As people take more, their bodies become used to it, requiring more. When this happens, people tend to abuse the drug. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose.

Since 2016, there has been an average of 115 deaths daily from opioid overdoses.

So what can be done to reduce the use of prescription opioids that lead to addiction?

There are a number of non-opioid alternatives to help relieve pain that patients can ask for. Some studies reveal that medicine such as acetaminophen can be just as helpful as prescription opioids for reducing pain. While some opioid medications may be necessary, it is important that physicians carefully watch over the well-being of their patients, which could decrease the number of addictions and overdoses.

Prescription opioids have increased greatly within the last 15 years. As prescriptions increase, so does the possibility for addiction and overdose. It’s past time to gain control over this opioid epidemic that is killing hundreds on a daily basis.