Prescription Opioids and Our Epidemic Part 1

Six blue opioid pills on paper.PART 1

Note: All numbers are cited from the Center for Disease Control.

We are currently in the midst of a large national problem. If one prescribes to the notion that addiction is a mental disease, then one cannot deny that the alarming rise of opioid abuse in the United State constitutes nothing less than an all out epidemic. Oftentimes, this gets framed into the picture of rising rates of heroin abuse. However, the much more disturbing truth is that the biggest culprit behind this epidemic in American society is not an illegal substance like heroin, but one that is recommended by our own health professionals. Indeed, it is prescription opioids that largely drive opioid abuse in many forms. Here is a quick look at the challenges posed by prescription opioids…

Prescription drug deaths

The biggest indicator of the dangers that prescription opioids bring to this issue can be seen in the sheer volume of numbers that they have contributed to all opioid overdose deaths in recent years. In 2014, over half of all opioid overdoses derived from prescription opioids, and not illegal ones, like heroin. When one considers that over 60% of all drug overdose deaths are due to opioids, then the scope of the problem really begins to emerge. This means that nearly one-third of all drug overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. Overall, these numbers have climbed dramatically, as four times as many people died from prescription overdoses in 2014 than in 1999.

Wider availability

As stated above, the amount of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses quadrupled over the course of fifteen years (1999 to 2014). However, these numbers don’t come out of nowhere. The amount of prescriptions opioids being sold also climbed over 300% during that same period. This has led to a larger presence of the existence of prescription opioids (over 210 million and counting, worldwide), with the United States using more than any other country on the planet. Right now, the United States is responsible for nearly all hydrocodone and oxycodone usage in the world.

Everyone pays for opioid abuse

On top of the human pain that is caused by the spread of the opioid epidemic, there is a steep economic cost, as well. Currently, prescription opioid abuse leads to health problems that costs insurance companies over $70 billion every single year. These costs trickle down to consumers, who pay for this in higher premiums. The deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses also feed into economic problems, as the lost productivity of each person killed by this devastating problem is harmful to our overall economy.

Continued in Part 2.