Epidemics and pandemics are raging and we are falling behind. We are making some decisions that make strides in the right direction. We have also made some decisions that have thrown us into a wild west territory. As the HIV/AIDS epidemics ravished the 80s and 90s, the opioid epidemic has taken over the 1990s to now. With the fear that comes from the astounding overdose and addiction statistics in our hearts, we need to reevaluate how we look at our epidemic. The opioid epidemic is ours and we need to adjust our approach.
How Did We Get Here?
There are three waves to the opioid epidemic. In 1991, there was a sharp rise in deaths from opioid overdoses. The pharmaceutical companies were offering reassurances that the possible addition to opioids was low. They were also promoting using strong opioids for any type of pain.
There was a lack of research and data, so doctors and medical officials were prescribing away. By 1999, 86 percent of opioid prescriptions were for noncancer patients. At this point, we begin to see people buying and selling their pills.
Around 2010, when doctors and medical professionals realized how addictive these pills actually were they began lessening how much and to whom they were prescribing opioids to. This began the second wave of our epidemic. Most of the people that were suddenly cut off from their prescriptions, they began turning to illicit opioids.
Heroin use skyrocketed among all age groups, all sexes, all economic brackets, basically everyone that had once had a prescription or knew someone that had one. Deaths from heroin rose 286 percent from 2002 to 2013. Approximately 80 percent of heroin users admitted they were once abusing prescription pills. With injection being one of the most common ways to consume heroin, this puts users at risk for HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis C, and other possibly fatal blood infections.
The third wave is where we are now. Now fentanyl and carfentanil that have taken the stage. These two drugs are the most potent opioids currently on the market and ever made.
They are made legally and illegally. These drugs are so potent that even the smallest amount can be fatal. One of the sharpest rises in drug-related deaths occurred in 2016 with over 20,000 deaths from fentanyl and related drugs. Then in 2018 more than 67,300 Americans died from drug-involved overdoses, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.
Drug manufacturers and dealers will put fentanyl into heroin or cocaine and sell it to the everyday user. Addicts do not know what they are consuming. Even veteran users have overdosed thinking they were doing their normal amount and have died. Fentanyl and carfentanil have become the third wave in our opioid epidemic. This is where we are now.
What Are We Doing Now?
The CDC has put guidelines in place for the appropriate amounts of opioids to be prescribed and what for. That may help with over prescribing opioids to those that may not need it and that may help a few avoid a painful addiction.
But we have decades worth of work to do to help those that are caught up or got caught up in any wave of this epidemic. Treatment centers are much better equipped to handle opioid addictions and the withdrawal symptoms they create. In 2017, HHS, the US Department of Human and Health Services, launched a 5-Point Strategy to empower local communities on the frontlines. According to HHS, “The opioid epidemic is one of the Department’s top priorities; through the 5-Point Strategy and HHS’s Agency Priority Goal of reducing opioid morbidity and mortality, the Department continues to focus on most effect efforts for addressing opioid disorder.” The 5-Point Strategy, according to their website, entails:
- Access: Better Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services
- Data: Better Data on the Epidemic
- Pain: Better Pain Management
- Overdoses: Better Targeting of Overdosing-Reversing Drugs
- Research: Better Research on Pain and Addiction
This Agency’s goals are to focus on these priorities, set outcomes, and attain measurable results. This information is from 2018. There is a great deal of research into addiction and treatment that is still needed. The most help is truly needed on the local community level. The HHS has put into place deadlines for increasing care for addicts across the nation.
It is incredibly important that we all continue working towards ending this epidemic. It is only getting worse and more people are dying. We are losing people to a treatable disease.
This is a problem that touches everyone across the nation, from the penthouse to the doghouse. This epidemic has shown no signs of slowing down. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please reach out. Call: 888-380-0667