Right now America’s fighting two massive health crises. The one it shares with the rest of humanity, the other is an ongoing problem that’s been raging out of control since 1991. We’re talking about the opioid crisis that now has America in its grip even more firmly than before. According to the CDC, opioid-related deaths have risen enormously since 2019, with some states reporting a 50% increase. Did you realize that things are so out of control? Keep reading for some more eye-opening opioid addiction facts you need to know.
Table of Contents
1. Opioid Addiction is More Deadly Than War
Opioids kill more people under 50 in the USA than HI/AIDS, guns, or car accidents do. Since 1990, more people have died from opioid overdoses than US soldiers killed in military engagements (666,000) since the American Revolution in 1775.
According to the CDC, over 800,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 1990 and over 70% of those deaths resulted from synthetic opioids.
What are Synthetic Opioids?
You probably think you know what synthetic opioids are, but you’re only partly right. Illegal opioids like heroin are only two of a vast range of synthetic opioids.
Synthetic opioids comprise any opioids manufactured in laboratories. Natural opioids, like Opium, come from the poppy plant. Opium’s also illegal, but it’s an excellent painkiller which is why it’s modified into these more common synthetic drugs.
Unfortunately, these easy-to-come-by painkillers are just as deadly as their illegal counterparts when they’re misused. If you want to know how prescription drugs can kill you, read this.
2. Prescription Drugs Are the Gateway to Illegal Opioids
Thanks to huge strides made in the medical industry during the 90s, laboratories came up with many synthetic treatments for pain and anxiety. When used as intended, and according to a doctor’s instructions, these are all excellent ways to find relief from what ails you.
However, some people soon become addicted to this sense of relief and want more, long after their symptoms have disappeared.
Some of the common synthetic types of opioids prescribed by well-meaning doctors include:
- Fentanyl – a powerful drug that’s 50 times stronger than morphine
- Methadone – Used for severe pain management and addiction treatment
- Carfentanil – An elephant tranquilizer, with a potency that’s 10,000 times stronger than morphine
- Tramadol – An oral painkiller for moderate pain
All these drugs have legitimate uses in surgery and veterinary applications but can spark addiction in some users. When their doctors notice this problem and start to say no, that’s when these addicts turn to street drugs to get their fix.
3. It’s Easy to Get Prescription Drugs
Doctors often get the blame for over-prescribing opioids, yet only 20% of doctors prescribe over 80% of the opioids in the USA. Most doctors refrain from prescribing opioids unless there’s no alternative.
A 2012 survey revealed that over 12 million US citizens use prescription painkillers without a prescription.
Another study involving high school students revealed that teens have no problem accessing prescription drugs illicitly. Over half of them knew someone who sold drugs at their school. Others bought drugs online via illegal pharmacies.
Most of these youngsters said that they had free access to drugs and alcohol in their own homes.
4. Addiction’s a Mental Health Issue
Around 12% of people who abuse prescription opioids develop an addiction.
It’s difficult to comprehend why people would take drugs willy-nilly, knowing about these severe consequences.
To help you understand, you need to know some facts about addiction. Addiction’s a mysterious and complicated type of mental disorder that affects people differently.
In about 50% of cases, addiction’s an inherited condition. The types of addiction vary from person to person, although most addicts share certain personality traits.
So if you come from a family of alcoholics, it’s not correct to assume you’re safe from opioid addiction.
You could become addicted to anything.
The trouble with most addictive substances is that when you take them for extended periods of time, you start to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop.
Due to this, it’s easy to become physically addicted to drugs even if you aren’t predisposed to addiction.
5. Legal Opioids Have Harmful Side Effects Too
If you use opioids as directed by a healthcare provider, you shouldn’t have any problems with them. Unfortunately, some people still experience unpleasant side effects even when they do follow instructions.
Opioids are broad-spectrum analgesic agents. That means they have far-reaching effects on our organs and impact a wide range of bodily functions. As such, opioids can create a range of side effects in a small percentage of the population.
- Difficulty breathing
Most people who experience these symptoms approach their doctors for alternatives, or simply stick it out until their course of the medication’s done.
For those with addictive personalities, tolerance becomes a problem. Tolerance means you no longer experience the desired effects of the medication. So, you take more to get the same effect.
As soon as your body adjusts to the increased dose, it gets tolerant again, so you increase your dose again. The cycle continues until you end up dead, or in hospital undergoing treatment for an overdose.
Every day, over 1,000 people arrive at emergency awards in America suffering from drug overdoses.
6. Heroin Kills Thousands of People Annually
In many cases, doctors wise up to repeated requests for more opioids and will stop prescribing them.
Often, this leads hardened opioid addicts to seek alternatives in illegal street drugs. This usually leads them straight to a heroin dealer.
At the (previous) height of the epidemic during 2019, over 70,000 people died of opioid overdoses, almost 15,000 of these were due to heroin.
Two things increase your chances of dying from a heroin overdose. These are:
- Combining heroin with alcohol or other drugs like cocaine or benzodiazepines
- Long term use
Most people who overdose on heroin die from respiratory failure or asphyxiation.
7. The USA Consumes More Opioids Than Any Other Nation
It’s logical to assume that opioid addiction’s a worldwide problem, but that’s not the case. The USA consumes over 80% of the opioids produced globally every year. Yet, we comprise only 4.4% of the world’s population.
During 2017, healthcare providers filled out over 191 million prescriptions for opioid medication. That’s more than 58 prescriptions per 100 people.
Although the problem’s widespread, the Southwest and Appalachia region of the USA record the highest death rates from opioids every year.
These areas suffer from high incidences of crime thanks to drug use. Authorities in these states also report that over 50% of the children they remove for safekeeping come from homes where the parents’ abuse drugs.
8. Opioid Addiction’s a Top Governmental Concern
Thanks to these startling statistics, it’s no surprise that the Federal government’s taking steps to help combat this serious problem.
In 2017, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) launched a five-point strategy to help fight opioid abuse. The basics of this include:
- Better targeting of overdose medications
- Improved pain management principles
- Increased research into addiction
- Better data management relating to opioid addiction
- Improved services to help prevent and treat opioid addiction as well as support for recovering addicts
The FDA launched its Strategic Policy Roadmap in 2018 to help with the following aspects:
- Reducing exposure to marketing of opioids
- Improvement of medication-assisted treatment methods
- Development of new, safer pain medications
- Increased collaboration with Customs and Border Protection services to prevent illegal trade
In addition, the Drug Enforcement Agency is working with the Department of Justice to find and prosecute those behind the ‘pill mills’ as well as doctors who prescribe opioids irresponsibly.
9. Opioid Addiction Facts About Recovery
One of the most startling facts about opioid addiction is that it increases your chances of dying prematurely sixfold. So, there’s a slim chance of survival for most opioid addicts unless they receive comprehensive treatment.
There’s limited evidence involving recovery rates for addiction. That’s because addiction’s a chronic disorder that can resurface at any time.
Even someone who’s managed to stay away from opioids for decades could take a turn for the worse at any moment. One study observed recovering opioid addicts for over 30 years and reported only a 30% abstinence rate among the study group.
Many rehabilitation facilities are using drug therapy as a way to ease the transition to abstinence for their patients. This has met with some success as it eases the suffering associated with withdrawal symptoms.
However, addicts must address the mental issues associated with addiction using ongoing therapy to maintain their abstinence.
Protect Yourself From Common Health Issues
The more you know, the better you can protect yourself from common and even serious health issues. So reading these opioid addiction facts is a good way to safeguard against something that affects so many people.
For more up-to-date information on health-related topics, bookmark our site and check back regularly for more.