Recently, the U.S. government announced it was allotting $485 million for fighting the opioid epidemic, the most aggressive legislation to date aimed at fighting this growing crisis. Here’s a closer look at why leaders are taking bigger steps than ever before to fight the epidemic.
The Increase in Legal Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers Has a Direct Correlation to Overdose Deaths
Concern about opioid abuse has been increasing since the last decade. In 2012, the government found that over 2 million people reported a substance abuse disorder related to prescribed opioids and that 21,000 fatalities — almost 50% — of all drug related deaths involved opioids. That number has continued to rise, and the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that over 33,000 deaths in 2015 were due to opioid overdose.
One of the difficulties in addressing opioid abuse is related to how people obtain them. Alarmingly, research shows that nearly one-third of Americans who use opioids for 200 or more days in a given year had obtained the pills legally through their own prescription.
While only 15 percent of prescription painkillers in the United States are purchased from a drug dealer, those that buy from a drug dealer or stranger are four times more likely to overdose.
The Relationship Between Overdose and Prescription Rates
Fighting the opioid epidemic is hard when the problem is internal. The sharp rise in opioid deaths directly corresponds to a similar meteoric rise in the issuance of legal opioid prescriptions in the United States. Studies show that the number of prescriptions issued for legal opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone rose from 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013. In addition, the total sales volume of legally prescribed opioid painkillers in the United States has quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, yet the overall amount of pain reported by Americans has remained unchanged.
Similarly, the ease in which opioids have become available through legal prescriptions has also been directly correlated to an increase in non-lethal medical issues related to misuse of opioids. In 2004, there were 144,600 emergency room visits involving recreational use of opioid analgesics. In a mere four years, this number rose to 305,900 in 2008.
While only 15 percent of prescription painkillers in the United States being purchased from a drug dealer, those that buy from a drug dealer or stranger are four times more likely to overdose. This data further shows the danger in these highly addictive painkillers as those that are initially in need of the pills for pain management often become so heavily addicted that they look to illicit sources to feed their addiction. Furthermore, what starts as an addiction to a prescription painkiller such as Vicodin or Oxycontin often leads the addict to seek out a stronger high from more dangerous substances such as heroin. Prescription painkiller addictions can spiral into heroin addictions, making fighting the opioid epidemic even more difficult.
As Unemployment Rises, So Do Overdose Cases
New research shows a clear link between unemployment and opioid abuse. According to one study, when a county’s unemployment rate increases 1%, the rate of opioid overdose visits to emergency rooms increase 7% and opioid related deaths rise 3.6%.
Depression that stems from unemployment may also be a factor that leads to increasing overdose cases among the non-working. Research shows that unemployed people are more likely to be treated for depression and distance themselves from family and friends, and one study showed that if an unemployment period lasts more than 26 weeks, the unemployed person typically isolates himself or herself even more, which can raise the risk of self-medication through substances such as opioids. In addition, research indicates that mental health illnesses, such as depression, often make people more sensitive to physical pain during stressful economic times, which can quickly turn into an opiate addiction.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Your Battle with Addiction
At Morningside Recovery, we create personalized recovery programs that help people beat their addictions for good. Fighting the opioid epidemic can affect anyone, but prescription drug addiction isn’t the only substance abuse problem. Whether you have been struggling with alcoholism, heroin addiction, or any type of substance addiction, we can help you achieve a lifetime of sobriety through our unique approach to substance abuse treatment that really works. Call our 24/7 helpline at 855-416-8202 and our specialists will work with you to help find a treatment plan that works.