The Opioid Epidemic: A National Crisis
In 2017 the number of overdose deaths involving opioids which includes prescribed medication and illegal drugs such as heroin and manufactured fentanyl was six times higher than in previous decades (understanding the epidemic). 60 million Americans take opioids every day, that is 60 million Americans at risk for addiction (King).
Opioids are a type of drug or painkiller that contains highly addictive components and can be prescribed to you or bought illegally. They could potentially become highly addictive and leave your body dependent on them. Which could affect your judgment, learning, decision making, stress, memory and behavior as most drugs affect the “reward circuit” of your brain (understanding drug use and addiction). “Drug overdose has already taken the lives of 300,000 Americans over the past fifteen years, and experts now predicted that 300,000 more would die in only the next five years. It is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of fifty, killing more people than guns or car accidents, at a rate higher than the HIV epidemic at its peak”, says Beth Macy, author of Dopesick. The opioid epidemic has increased the number of drugs prescribed to patients with cronic “pain”.
The CDC reports that nationwide more than 42,000 of nearly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved opioids (Terrell). On Average 116 people die a day from drug overdose (opioid crisis). Hillary Clinton touched on the subject about the opioid crisis and said, “This is a disease, this is a cronic condition that has to be interrupted and treated and preventable if possible.” The opioid epidemic is a problem in the United States because of lack of education, expensive healthcare, and drugs being smuggled across the border.
The lack of education is a main reason why the opioid epidemic is a problem. The United States opioid epidemic has taken the lives of devastating amount of people with all levels of education. However, deaths have grown increasingly more focused on among those with lower levels of education (Scommegna). With the lack of education about drugs and what they can do to you physically and mentally it is easier for a person to want to try them and then they get addicted. Having good resources and people to talk to could potentially lower the death of overdoses.
More-educated adults in the United States tend to live longer than less-educated individuals. In the Article “Opioid Overdose Epidemic Hits Hardest for Least Educated” it indicates, “The differences increase in a stair-step pattern by education level, with the widest difference between college graduates and those without high school degrees. This gap has widened over the past two decades, resulting in part from steep increases in drug overdose deaths among those without college degrees, reports Ho in an article published in the journal Demography.”
Less-educated individuals tend to work in settings that increase their risk of workplace injuries, disability, and chronic health conditions, which lead to a greater likelihood of being prescribed opioid painkillers, raising their risk of addiction (Scommegna). Being prescribed painkillers is a big reason why people get hooked on opioids, their body depends on the drug to not feel pain thus making them addicted.
Expensive healthcare is another reason why the opioid epidemic is a problem in the Unites States. Many people across the country especially low-income families without health insurance struggle to find proper medical treatment. People could get hurt in their work force and not have enough money to get the treatment they need. Or they could be diagnosed with a painful disease that causes very expensive treatments to treat and their insurance doesn’t cover it, or they simply do not have enough money for the treatment. The pain could become unbearable so they seek release and could potentially buy opioids or other drugs off the street to help with the pain and then they easily become addicted. They may also might not be given the right and safer treatment for their pain but given a prescription for pain killers or certain opioids that they then become addicted to. They will eventually run out of prescriptions and could potentially turn to street drugs.
Many illegal immigrants are smuggling drugs across the border which is a main reason why the opioid epidemic is a nationwide problem. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency, he says that the federal government gives their full support in the fight to stop the opioid crisis. Part of that support starts right at America’s borders and ports of entry (Davis).
In John Davis’s article he adds, ‘Like those who distribute and sell drugs on the streets, the criminals who import and distribute narcotics into this country are relentless in their quest for profits and power,’ said CBP’s (customs and border protection) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. ‘As America’s frontline border security agency, CBP is uniquely responsible – and uniquely positioned – for disrupting the influx of narcotics.’ Many deadly drugs that are being overdosed on, on the daily are being smuggled into the country and until we put a stop to that we cannot put a stop to the opioid epidemic.
Customs and border protection created a 4-goal strategy to help fight the opioids being brought over to the United States, it starts with enhance collaboration and information sharing, then produce actionable intelligence, then target the opioid supply chain, and lastly protect customs and border protection personnel from exposure to opioids (David). Once we limit the drugs that are coming across the border, we have a chance at getting the opioid epidemic under control.
There are many forces around the nation trying to help put a stop to the opioid epidemic and give a solution for people stuck in the middle of it. One organization is a group called Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA). It is an education and awareness that educates patients about the rights, risk, and responsibility associated with taking prescribed opioids. The organization has trained professionals sit down and talk to patients that are about to be prescribed opioids. They go over how to be responsible and properly take the opioid. They go over all the risk on what taking an opioid can do and how highly addictive they are. This gives the patients all the knowledge they need about opioids and gives them a chance to ask questions and address concerns they have with taking the drug.
Another organization trying to put an end to the opioid epidemic is a group called The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP). It is a nonprofit organization that provides expert information and tools for safely managing prescription drugs and opioid addiction. They educate consumers, provide free resources and save many lives. Center for safe Internet Pharmacies also paired with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids supports families struggling with substance abuse. They provide free resources and tips on how to help your kids if they begin struggling with substance abuse such as tips for understanding the epidemic, a guide on how to protect your family on safely storing drugs and disposing medication, and tips on how to talk with your children.
The lack of education, expensive healthcare, and drugs being smuggled across the border are all reasons why the United States has a problem with the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic is causing distress across the nation and needs to be stopped. As a healthcare emergency the epidemic cannot be taken lightly as it kills hundreds of people daily. It is more dangerous than cars, guns and the HIV epidemic at its highest peak. By taking the time to learn more about the epidemic and taking it more seriously and giving people with an addiction an outlet and someone to talk to the opioid epidemic can be put under control.
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