Opioid abuse in America has reached pandemic levels in our country and the problems begin at the type of medication that is being prescribed. Opioid abuse has grown exponentially for many years, and even with federal regulation opioid abuse is flourishing. It could be your mother, father, little sister, best friend, or significant other; no one is immune from the tight grasp of addictions long reach. It all started from a car accident, a routine surgery that required pain relief that no one could have ever predicted your future, but now you are an addict fighting for your life stemming from something so innocent, so routine. According to Drugabuse.gov, worldwide there are an estimated 26.4 to 36 million individuals suffering from some opiate addiction. These are just the numbers that are being accounted for because there is a whole group of addicts unaccounted for functioning addicts. Opioid addiction is a serious health problem that has reached epic proportions on the global scale.
The American Opioid Abuse Crisis
Opioid abuse hasn’t been discussed until recently about the impact society as a whole is seeing due to this severe problem. Why should it ever have been discussed either? In a world where chronic pain is present, and the greed for money is as high as ever, who could stop a giant like Purdue that according to Forbes had made an estimated 35 billion dollars in revenue since 1995 when the powerful narcotic OxyContin made its debut. Chronic pain is an unfortunate part of some realities, but we have people that are a part of this nation profiting off our misery and misfortunes.
It does not stop there; however – kids see prescription drugs as a safer alternative to “street” drugs because they were made in a pharmacy. Let’s be clear; OxyContin is heroin in pill form, often referred to as “hillbilly” heroin. Oxycontin is one of the leading medications that lead to opioid abuse. The Medicine Abuse Project came out with a study saying that 1 in 4 teens has misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime, a 33% increase in the past five years due to the misconception that it is “safer” than street drugs. Kids are getting into their parent’s medicine cabinets and getting hooked. Once they run out of the pills, or they become too expensive on the street, they take the plunge for a cheaper and stronger high: heroin. The results have become catastrophic, and although addiction has been ever present throughout our history, the ability to obtain these narcotics has become easier and easier.
Opioid Abuse & Overdose Statistics
21.5 million American’s 12 years or older had a substance abuse disorder in 2014, and 1.9 million of those were prescription pills. The American Society of Addiction Medicine statistics state that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States accounting for approximately 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014 alone. It is an opioid addiction that is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdoses from prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths relate to heroin. From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admission related to prescription pill relievers increased. 15,000 people die annually from prescription overdoses which are more than heroin and cocaine combined. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate, and sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999.
Rehabilitation and Opioid Abuse
Does it work? Rehab is often looked at by addicts as a means to justify their addiction. “It’s okay, because when I want to stop, I can just go to rehab and be fine for a while.” Like prescription drugs themselves, another business that is booming is drug rehab. It is another wolf in sheep’s clothing pretending to care for your needs while benefitting and profiting off your misery. Some programs are tailored to your needs and can help, but they are very expensive and usually not covered by insurance. So those without the necessary finances tend to be the ones caught in the ugly cycle more so than those who can afford exceptional treatment. Opiate addicts relapse an estimated 8-10 times before getting clean, and that is assuming they survive that long. Sobriety is achievable though for those who want it bad enough, and there are 23.5 million success stories to back up that point, but unfortunately that statistic pales in comparison to the deaths and sob stories that we so often hear about.
Crooked Doctors and Opioid Abuse
Sadly, I have witnessed firsthand doctors writing prescriptions to people I have known very well that were in no visible pain. The fortunate, but the unfortunate reality of this is that individuals who are truly in pain and use opioids as prescribed are the real losers here. Why? Because of this, new regulations are being put in place to pressure doctors to stop writing prescriptions so easily. In turn, the individuals with real needs will get less and less of what they need. The damage that has been done however will not be fixed anytime soon. Now that addict who abused the system will be unable to obtain their prescriptions, they will find other ways to achieve what they need. Addiction isn’t that simple to where they will just stop, unfortunately.
Dealing With Opioid Abuse & Addiction
If you are one of the few individuals that haven’t lost anyone to addiction – consider yourself very lucky. In the world of addicts, death is prevalent and a very unfortunate reality. What we haven’t discussed is the damage those who chose a different path still have to live with every day losing a loved one to addiction. They say it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but there’s an exception to every rule and saying, right? I rather have never loved at all than to have lost to addiction, but in this modern society, it’s a reality we all have to find ways to accept.
Beginning the grieving process is the first step in dealing with this. Address your feelings of guilt and shame, look for support groups, and remember, don’t blame yourself or others. Develop tools for coping. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t throw yourself back into your regular routine like everything is okay, because it isn’t. You need to adjust to the changes in your life and always be open to receiving help. Giving back is one of the best tools to dealing with grief, leave a tribute, and remember to appreciate those you have around you because at any moment that could change. There are many ways to describe the pain of addiction for those suffering and those spectating, but simply put, it hurts on both ends of the spectrum, and we want to help in any way we can, but sometimes helping those in need is not enough. They need to want to help themselves.