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...
Prescriptions as a gateway
Aside from the direct damage that is caused by prescription opioid abuse, another major part of the problem is that certain abusers will eventually move on to harder substances, such as heroin. Due to the scope of our current opioid epidemic, this makes prescription opioids the single largest gateway drug in the United States. The main driver behind this is that heroin is a cheaper drug to manufacture. On top of that, attempts to root out opioid dependency in a medical setting may have the adverse effect of pushing addicts towards a drug that is easier to find, as heroin is, in most communities.
Rethinking the paradigm
As you can see, our current system is rife with a dark sort of irony. Not only does this opioid epidemic continue to currently spread, despite our best efforts, but a major part of what is fueling it is our own medical industry. However, we don’t have to continue down this path. The answer to this societal problem is to not double-down on long-running mistakes, but to find a new path forward. Although more research and conclusions still need to be made about what this new path is, there are several steps that need to be taken (and are starting to be taken by the medical industry, right now).
According to the CDC, the first step that needs to be taken is reducing the amount of exposure that people are given to prescription opioids. If these numbers have proven anything, it is that we have been far too excessive in our attempts to use opioids as a general painkiller. Aside from this, providing more access to research-approved addiction recovery treatment can help treat the people who are already struggling in our current addiction climate.