Understanding the Dangerous and Deadly Opioid Epidemic

Understanding the Dangerous and Deadly Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid epidemic is the name given to the increase in the misuse and abuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs of the class of opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs that include both legal and non-legal substances that have a pain-reducing effect.

Opioid abuse and drug addiction are ravaging American families. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives due to drug addiction and substance abuse in the United States, and it’s becoming more and more severe.

Drug addiction affects entire families and chances are you know someone or know of someone who is struggling with opiate addiction or substance abuse problem.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include illicit painkillers like heroin and licit prescription painkillers like oxycodone.

Opiates are chemically designed to relieve pain through calming the central nervous system. Not only do opiates relieve pain, but they also create a pleasurable sensation, known as a “high” of sorts.

This pleasurable high feeling leads to people who are not in pain abusing opiates.

It is estimated that 23% of people who try heroin will develop an opioid addiction.

Addiction is primarily a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by a persons desire to pressure a reward or pleasurable experience through substance usage.

Today, there is a serious and deadly opioid crisis happening. About 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose daily.

The crisis has also put a considerable strain on the American economy costing an estimated 78.5 billion a year in costs for health care, emergency services, treatment, lost productivity, and criminal justice pursuits.

The opioid epidemic is now a national health emergency under federal law.

History of the Opioid Epidemic

You might be wondering how this national health emergency began in the first place.

It all started in the late 1990s when the big pharmaceutical companies encouraged doctors to prescribe opiates to their patients for pain.

The pharmaceutical companies sold doctors on prescription painkillers through studies where they deemed the medications to be safe and not addictive.

This misleading information, combined with the medical community’s desire to keep patients with painful long-term conditions happy, led to over-prescribing of opiates in the United States.

Opiates are exceptionally addictive. After a period of taking your prescribed dosage, you will build a tolerance.

Having a tolerance means you will need more and more of the drug to achieve the same pain-relieving and high producing effects.

Due to the issues with tolerance, people found themselves going through withdrawal when they would suddenly cut their dosages.

Withdrawals are like having the flu for a week straight. A withdrawal causes extreme rebound pain, nausea, vomiting, upset bowels, sweating, insomnia, and so forth.

As a result of the nasty effects of withdrawal, people began using heroin illicitly to avoid withdrawals.

Current Statistics on the Opioid Epidemic for 2016

Americans are the world leading consumers of opiates. Some states write enough scripts to fill a bottle of pills for every resident.

Other facts of the current opioid epidemic include:

  • 116 people die every day due to an opioid-related overdose
  • 11.5 million people have misused prescription medication
  • 42,249 people have died from overdosing on opiates
  • 2.1 million people have an opioid use disorder
  • 948,000 people use heroin
  • 170,000 people used heroin for the first time
  • 2.1 million misused prescription opioids for the first time
  • 17,087 deaths occurred from commonly prescribed opiates
  • 19,414 deaths are attributed to synthetic opioids
  • 15, 469 deaths attributed to heroin overdose
  • 504 billion in economic costs

Who is Responsible for the Opioid Crisis?

Big Pharmaceutical Companies: As mentioned earlier, big pharmaceutical companies played a huge role in the availability of opiates.

Wanting to make big money, these companies’ marketed opiates as effective and safe for treating pain despite existing studies that show the risks of using opiates outweigh their benefits.

This misleading marketing campaign exposed vulnerable patients to the world of addiction and Pharma the creator of OxyCotin paid out over$600 million in fines for Pharma’s misleading marketing claims.

Healthcare Professionals: Doctors and healthcare professionals were under pressure from medical associations, government agencies, and advocacy groups to take pain more seriously.

Plus, doctors were under pressure to treat patients quickly. For the medical community, opioids are the fast answer to treating pain.

Doctor’s didn’t have the resources to handle chronic illness and patient’s pain problems, so it was easier just to give them painkillers to keep them happy.

International Black Market: Black markets are where transactions occur illicitly.

In the case of opioids, it is where people obtain substances like heroin. Unlike prescription pills, heroin is not made in a lab and usually contains numerous dangerous additives.

Lately, heroin has been laced with Fentanyl because Fentanyl is stronger causing a more intense high for users. It is also exceptionally deadly, and the line between enjoyment and death is very slim.

People often opt to buy heroin for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is cheaper than the pharmaceutical drugs you find on the street.

Heroin and Fentanyl Have Made the Opioid Crisis Worse

Opiate users began moving to more potent opiates, like heroin and fentanyl for a variety of reasons. Some made the transition to heroin after losing their access to painkillers while others just wanted to get high.

It is important to note that not all people who previously were legally prescribed opioids went down this dark path and not all opiate users began with painkillers.

The Center for Disease Control discovered that people who were addicted to painkillers were 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.

As heroin became more readily available in America to meet the demand from former painkiller users, an excess supply gave people who were not already addicted to painkillers an opportunity and access to try heroin.

While this has been going on the crackdown on overprescribing opiates has caused opioid painkiller deaths to level off, while heroin and fentanyl deaths have been rapidly increasing.

About The Drugs Fueling the Epidemic

  • Heroin:

Diamorphine is also known as Heroin. It is the most commonly abused recreational drug due to its euphoric effects.

Typically Heroin is injected into a vein. It can, however, be smoked, snorted, or inhaled. Heroin a rapid onset and will last a few hours.

Common side effects include respiratory depression, euphoria, dry mouth, abscesses, infected heart valves, blood-borne infections, pneumonia, and constipation to name a few.

Heroin has two to three times the effect of a similar dosage of morphine.

  • Fentanyl:

Fentanyl is an opiate that is used as a pain medication as well as with other drugs for anesthesia.

It has a rapid onset and lasts no more than two hours. It is 75 times stronger than morphine, and some fentanyl analogs are known to be 10,000 stronger than morphine.

Due to its low price, illicit drug dealers are cutting their heroin with it, and it is one of the primary reasons the opioid epidemic has gotten so bad.

  • Oxycodone:

Developed in 1917 in Germany Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid and moderately potent painkiller.

It is indicated for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It has a euphoric effect like other opioids and is one of the most commonly abused medications in America.

  • Fentanyl Pressed Pills:

Due to the rising scarcity of oxycodone on the street, dealers are now making their own pressed oxycodone pills using Fentanyl.

Illicit manufacturing is extremely concerning because dealers are unable to control how much fentanyl is in each tablet.

Plus, it’s nearly impossible to evenly spread the fentanyl throughout the tablets causing hotspots where there are higher concentrations of the fentanyl, which can be the difference between a good time and death for the user.

Rising Death Toll

The death toll, as alarming as it is, likely underestimates the complexity of the opioid epidemic. Opioid addiction can lead to more problems than death alone.

It can hinder social function and cause people financial problems due to the costly expense of opiates.

Plus, other drugs are in the mix. The CDC found half of the heroin-related deaths included alcohol and about thirty percent of painkiller overdoses linked to benzodiazepines.

What this means is that this is much more than an opioid crisis, it’s an addiction epidemic that includes a variety of illegal and legal substances.

Top 2 Reasons why Addiction is an Epidemic in America Today

  • Lack of Mental Health Access:

Many Americans struggle with depression or other mental health problems.

Alongside the opioid epidemic, we have seen a rise in middle-class suicide rates suggesting that America’s opioid epidemic is also a reflection of our healthcare system.

Opioids have only added fuel to the fire as teens, and young adults struggle to get help for their coexisting mental health problems.

  • Lack of Access to Treatment for Addiction:

Due to the costs of opioid epidemic insurance companies usually, do not pay for rehabilitation facilities.

Hospitals are known to turn away patients who are going through opioid withdrawal because unlike benzodiazepines or alcohol abuse; you cannot die from opioid withdrawals alone.

If America continues to toss aside those who are struggling with addiction, then the problem will only worsen.

Finding Solutions to America’s Addiction Epidemic

The scale of the opioid crisis is shocking and drastic measures must be considered to help put an end to the war on drugs.

  • Prevent New Generations of Addicts:

The first step we, as a country, need to take in solving the addiction epidemic starts in the doctor’s office by limiting the scripts.

If we only give teenagers a 2-5 day supply of opioid medication for wisdom tooth surgery then, we are doing something right.

Safe prescribing for our youth is key when it comes to solutions to this problem.

  • Make Addiction Treatment Easier to Access: 

The primary problem with the opioid epidemic is that it is easier to get high than it is to go and get help.

Thus far, America has put in place measures to make opioids less accessible; however, America has not done anything to increase access to alternatives for opioids.

There is a stigma against medication alternatives like buprenorphine, methadone, and naloxone because people believe it is trading one drug for another.

This is a myth because, although treatment with medication involves continued drug use, it makes the habit a lot safer.

When taken correctly medications like the buprenorphine and methadone can eliminate cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing a euphoric effect.

  • Decriminalize Illicit Drugs:

Many people confuse decriminalization with legalization. Decriminalization makes it so that addicts can seek treatment without facing a legal penalty for having an illegal opioid in his or her possession.

It also means that the sale of illicit opioids is still illegal.

This decriminalisation actually targets the suppliers of these dangerous substances while allowing the commonplace user to seek treatment in the form of mental health counseling and maybe even prescription heroin.

Countries like Poland have excellent mental health counseling for addicts, and they provide them with prescription-grade heroin to decrease the likelihood of death.

  • Make Drug Use Safe:

Providing services like needle exchanges where addicts can trade in their used syringes for clean ones is one way to help those with an addiction stay safe.

Canada has had great success by offering safe injection sites which is where people who want to use drugs can freely go to get their drugs tested and use the drug in a safe, monitored environment.

These services also provide information about how to get off of the drugs entirely and promote the well being of their clients.

Just how opiates aren’t the solution, there is no magic pill or easy fix for this crisis.

America must address problems at the root level to fight back against the current opioid epidemic that is taking place.

Getting Help

Opioid Addiction, in any form, is a danger to anyone and everyone concerned.  Immediate action is required for the safety and security of active substance abusers who will depend on it to survive.

If you, a friend, or a loved one has addiction problems and you recognize that Opioids are likely to be involved, you can get in touch with the Hotline at your Recovery Center and discuss the problem and possible solutions.

The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment.  Call anytime.

Chateau Recovery Center
375 Rainbow Lane

Midway, UT 84049, USA
Phone: +1 435-654-1082

Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.

If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.


Here are two very powerful and informative videos regarding the Opioid Crisis in America.

On the front lines of the opioid crisis across the US

How the deadliest drug crisis in our country’s history is affecting thousands of Americans, from overdose victims, to their families to DEA agents to first responders.

Opioid addiction is the biggest drug epidemic in U.S. history. How’d we get here?

Every day brings another story about the depth of the country’s opioid crisis. A rise of pain killer prescriptions from doctors and a pharmaceutical industry eager to boost sales in the 1990s sparked a wave of addiction that shot up by almost 500 percent in the last 15 years. As a prologue to our series covering the opioid crisis, “America Addicted,” William Brangham reports on how we got here.



ATTENTION Potential Visitors & Potential Patients: COVID-19 Coronavirus UpdateView Update