The opioid crisis in the United States is a public health emergency. Despite the government’s best efforts, there was a 10 percent increase in opioid-related deaths in 2017.
Sadly, 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. This means that the opioid crisis produced more deaths than the totality of the Vietnam War.
More than 170 lives are lost each day due to overdose, in large part connected to heroin and prescription opioids. Before a solution can be implemented, it is important to learn the history of the opioid epidemic. Read on for a brief history of this infamous time in America.
When Did the Opioid Epidemic Begin?
The origins of this public health emergency date back to the 1990s. The pharmaceutical industry began pushing prescription drugs for pain management.
The primary objective during this time period was to maximize profit. In the quest for revenue, pharmaceutical companies downplayed safety concerns by promoting misleading information.
Doctors, desperate for a solution to pain management, were far too eager to prescribe opioids. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 50 million Americans deal with chronic pain issues. For doctors, prescription opioids were a quick and efficient solution.
Excessive prescriptions were the next domino to fall. Many patients simply needed a few days worth of prescription pain medication. Instead, doctors wrote abundant prescriptions that could last weeks or even months. The United States quickly became the number one opioid consumer in the world and by a large margin.
What Happened Next in the History of the Opioid Epidemic?
For many, opioid usage became a regular part of the day. Over time, the human body adjusts and the pain-relieving effects of prescription opioids diminish.
Due to this, many prescription opioid users turned to more potent versions. This is where heroin and fentanyl enter the story.
Medical studies show that 75 percent of heroin users started taking prescription opioids first. Patients who became addicted to painkillers were 40 times more likely to experiment with heroin. This means that doctor-prescribed pain medicine served as a gateway drug to heroin.
The medical industry and the government caught on that prescription drugs were the roots of the epidemic. As a result, laws and regulations were passed that limited the supply of prescription opioids.
Thanks to treatment resources like Inspire Malibu, deaths caused by prescription drugs were curbed. However, this pushed many people towards heroin and fentanyl. Now, a rapidly increasing number of Americans are dying at the hands of these two drugs. Fentanyl is even more potent than heroin and is often laced into heroin without the user’s knowledge.
Understanding the Epidemic Today:
The opioid epidemic is amongst the greatest tragedies in American history. Its origins were rooted in noble causes such as pain treatment and earning a profit.
However, it evolved into a killer wave as the pharmaceutical industry downplayed safety concerns and doctors overprescribed. Now the fight against opioids has shifted towards heroin and fentanyl.
The fight is just getting started and now government leaders are working to end the epidemic. If you enjoyed this article about the history of the opioid epidemic, check out our health and fitness blog for other great pieces.