The Opioid Crisis

Prescription opioid addictions have risen substantially. What begins as a dependency may lead to finding the medication on the black market or seeking out illegal opiates such as heroin. The NIDA notes that it began in the late 1990s when “pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.”

As of 2018, the NIDA estimates that between 8 percent and 12 percent of patients in the U.S. who are prescribed opioids develop a use disorder. Of them, 4 percent to 6 percent eventually turn to heroin and, on average, 115 people die every day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose. Between July 2016 and September 2017, there was a 30 percent to 54 percent increase in overdoses in various parts of the country. It is an epidemic that has hit rural America as hard as the cities.

This has led to initiatives by multiple government agencies to curb the epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the first line of defense is reducing the number of opioids prescribed. This involves working with physicians and pharmacies to only use such powerful painkillers when absolutely needed.

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