Dec 28, 2017
So many questions concerning the opioid epidemic, and the answers just don’t seem to be good enough. I have done a lot of reading, and trying to understand what exactly our country is going through (I see what’s happening on the local level, but not the big scheme of things), and it is jaw dropping. Just in Louisiana alone, I read that in the last few months, 110K prescriptions were cut back. You see 110,000 and it seems like a big number, but in actuality it’s not even breaking the surface. If you did the math, that’s less than a 3% decrease in the number of Rx that was filled.
So, if 3% of Rx aren’t filled, does that mean we are making headway and gaining ground on helping solve the issues? NO WE AREN’T! Even though we have had a decrease in Rx filled, there are still many people overdosing on a daily basis. Looking at a few different aspects, I have compiled a few questions and shortened answers on my thoughts about the epidemic.
HOW BAD IS THE EPIDEMIC?
This issue we face today is the worst drug crisis in American History. The leading cause of death in people under the age of 50 isn’t care accidents, or guns…it’s overdose. This number is rising faster due to opioids. This crisis is killing more people than the H.I.V. epidemic at its highest point.
IS THE CRISIS ABOUT OPIOIDS OR HEROIN?
BOTH. The root issue is from pain killers. Although the number of people overdosing on opioids is somewhat leveling off, the number of overdoses from heroin and fentanyl are steadily rising at a rapid pace. In the states where the numbers are through the roof, over 50% of the overdoses are involving fentanyl.
HOW HAS THE EPIDEMIC CHANGED?
The ages reported of addiction is what has changed the most. In the 2000’s, the average age of someone in active addiction was 40. In 2017, the median age is mid-20’s. This goes to show you that addiction doesn’t discriminate. People are being introduced to opioids and heroin at younger ages, which in turn drives the number of overdoses, and also people that are using fentanyl more. Rx may be harder to get, but heroin is more available than ever, and with it being cut with fentanyl it’s a deadly combo.
WHERE IS THE WORST PROBLEM IN THE UNITED STATES?
There’s not real true answer to this question. Each region/State/City is seeing their own issues with different drugs. Each particular location sees different demographics, techniques, and ways to get high. One particular place, they may have a higher rate of people smoking heroin. In others, they are injecting it which has a higher rate of overdose. The biggest problem is where fentanyl is being used, those areas are hardest hit. In other areas, they are seeing a higher rate of pain killers being used (they are even seeing a higher arrest record for people being charged with intent to distribute, with counterfeit pain pills). To add to the region/state/city theory, addiction again doesn’t play discrimination. Each demographic will have their own issues with the population in that area.
WHY HAS THE PROBLEM GOTTEN WORSE?
Addiction of opioids goes back to the 80’s. Since then, there have been several things that have changed to make pain killers more readily available. Between pharmaceutical companies pushing their drugs on doctors, and giving incentives to prescribe it, and “pill mills” popping up everywhere, it is hard to get a handle on all of the Rx that are out there. In a series of events, a person would be addicted to pain killers, then find heroin for cheaper (and easier to get), and now even more potent with the access to fentanyl. The large amounts of heroin/fentanyl are the scary issues at hand. No one really knows what they are getting, and how much of anything is involved. It’s the roll of a dice when it comes to getting high.
WHAT IS FENTANYL?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than pure heroin. It’s commonly used for surgical anesthesia and to treat pain. The substance is a fine-grained powder which makes it very easy to mix into other drugs (cut heroin with it, or used to produce counterfeit pills). The United States DEA states that most of the illicit fentanyl in the US derives from China or Mexico. Since the substance is super potent, it’s hard to control supply. And since it’s a true synthetic drug, it makes it even harder to find where it originated from. Lastly, it makes it hard to detect it because of the chemical markers due to it being completely man-made.
WHY DO PEOPLE USE FENTANYL?
Most people don’t realize they are taking it. From a drug dealer’s perspective, if they can cut their drug of choice (DOC) with fentanyl, and it be considered good product, they supply and demand will bring in a bigger profit. Fentanyl has been found in heroin, counterfeit pills, cocaine, and methamphetamine. People will take the risk when getting high. No one truly knows what is in the drugs they are using, even the dealer most times.
With all of these factors, there’s still no easy way or direct way to cure the epidemic. There are different measures that have been taken into account to try and help with the number of drug related deaths, but not all systems are on board with them. A few key things that I have read about were continuing to try and controlling distribution of prescription drugs. This can help lower the number of Rx in regards to the population. Many states are upside down in regards to the total number of Rx prescribed in comparison to the population.
So many questions are still out there, and so many different answers and opinions are available to read. The best thing I can say is educate yourself in regards to the local issues at hand. Be the change that people need to see. Be the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling from addiction, there’s help out there. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, or get it out in the open. More people than you think are impacted (directly or indirectly) by addiction. It may be someone in your family, a friend, or someone you are acquaintances with that are in active addiction. There are resources, and options available for everyone. Feel free to reach out to The Grove Recovery Center with any questions, (225) 300-4850, or firstname.lastname@example.org.