The coronavirus isn’t the only epidemic affecting the United States, and the opioid epidemic hasn’t been done any favors by COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders that have accompanied it. In the U.S., an average of 128 people die every day due to opioid-related overdoses. In addition to the OD statistics, the list of negative effects that the opioid crisis has on people’s health, and society as a whole, is upsettingly long.
Even the most staunch supporters in the fight against opioids tend to agree that it is a problem that stemmed from good intentions. Drugs like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone (Oxycontin and Vicodin, for the higher-price tag) were developed to help relieve patients’ pain, as discomfort and pain are two of the primary reasons people go see doctors in the first place.
Out of the good intention, however, came addictions to both the drugs, and the money the drugs were generating. Some bad brains took place of the good intentions, and now the opioid crisis is killing Americans by the minute, with both the legal drugs that are produced by big pharma, and illicitly manufactured “competitors” like heroin.
Legal Drugs Being Abused
In addition to OxyContin and Vicodin as mentioned above, methadone and all of the generic versions of the three are the most common drugs that result in overdoses and death. According to public health records, 35% of overdoses involved these prescription drugs. Another staggering statistic is that more than 1 in 10 patients who get prescribed an opioid develop a dependency on that drug.
Illicit Drugs Being Abused
Though heroin tends to be the go-to when people think about opioids on the black market, the synthetically created fentanyl is equally responsible for the high number of opioid deaths that occur due to dealer-bought drugs. Though fentanyl is meant to give users the same pain relief and temporary euphoria delivered by its prescription counterparts, the fact that it is a home-made drug means that many dealers simply call it Oxy or Vicoidin when they sell it, so buyers think they are getting a regulated drug. A slight mistake by a manufacturer on the black market can result in a deadly dose.
Legal to Illicit
Though some individuals do develop an addiction to the illegal drugs without ever having been prescribed any of the legal opioids, most individuals who wind up purchasing street drugs developed a liking for their legal counterparts first. With this, fighting a battle against a legal drug should be easier than fighting one against drug dealers, but big pharma has some steep bills to pay, and this is why many believe that they do not give due diligence in fixing the addictive nature of their products.
The best way to avoid opioid addiction is to stay away from them completely. However, as previously mentioned, they were created with good intention, and there are certain procedures and accidents that leave individuals with unbearable pain. Ensuring that you stick to prescriptions and turn any excess drugs in when paid subsides is a safe way to avoid any sort of experimentation after the pain is gone.
Awareness is also important when it comes to prevention. There is an inexplicable stigma in the United States related to talking about drug use and addiction, and (especially if you have youngsters) simply bringing up the issues to anyone you know who has a procedure or accident that may require opioid prescriptions for recovery, means you’re doing your part!