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It’s Official: Opiate Overdoses Continue to Rise Across the U.S.

It’s Official: Opiate Overdoses Continue to Rise Across the U.S.

Addiction Sweeps the Nation

The widespread addiction epidemic continues to make headlines across the United States. We read about the capture and arrest of drug cartel kingpins who move major weight. We see news coverage on the death of celebrities who have overdosed on heroin. We watch reality television shows about prisons packed with addicts serving time for drug-related crimes. Yes, one thing is sure – no part of the United States remains untouched by the devastating effects of drug addiction. Slowly but surely – one addict at a time – statistics indicate America is becoming consumed by drug addiction. No matter how small, conservative, or tough on crime a community might be, it will still be impacted by drug addiction in some way. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that every community in the U.S. is affected by the widespread problem of addiction, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Addiction continues to wreak havoc on the individual addict, rip families apart, and degrade society at large. Make no mistake about it – drug addiction is a very real and imminent threat to American society. Public enemy number one? Legal opiates.

Don’t Call it a Comeback – Heroin’s Been Here for Years

Opiates have been available in the United States since the 1800’s when opium first arrived on American soil. Although its availability and popularity have fluctuated in the past 200 years, opiates have been a favored substance in the U.S. for centuries. Whether smoking in the opium dens of yesteryear, shooting heroin on street corners, or popping pills, Americans have long since had a love affair with opiates – albeit a fatal attraction. Opiates are a classification of drugs derived from the opium plant. These include street heroin, but they also include commonly prescribed pain medications like morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycontin. The abuse of prescription opiates is a major problem in the U.S. According to NIDA, it has been estimated that the abuse of legal opiates costs insurance companies alone $72.5 billion annually in health-care costs. When many people think of opiate addiction, they think of the quintessential junkie archetype who lives out of trash cans and uses dirty needles. But, it is time for the United States to get a clear picture of what opiate addiction looks like today. In modern-day America, people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and racial groups are abusing the kind of heroin that comes with a doctor’s prescription.

Addiction Research Statistics Simplified

Every year, the Center for Disease Control allocates extensive resources to addiction prevention and treatment and studies the progression of addiction from a health perspective. It is important to recognize that the CDC views addiction as an illness. Unlike the federal government, which continues to view addiction as a criminal issue, the CDC explains addiction as a disease of the brain, not a moral deficiency that deserves punishment. The CDC is particularly interested in trends that will help determine how to best combat the spread of drug addiction in the U.S. Although most Americans will tell you they know addiction is a problem in the United States, chances are the average citizen would be shocked to learn the CDC’s statistics about opiate addiction. Here are some quick stats:

  • The CDC has officially confirmed that the opioid epidemic in the United States is continuing.
  • Deaths caused by drug overdose nearly tripled from 1999–2014.
  • Sixty-one percent of all 47,055 drug overdose deaths in 2014 involved an opioid.
  • From 2014 to 2015, the death rate caused by prescription opioids like Hydrocodone and Fentanyl increased by 72.2 percent. Death by street heroin overdose increased by 20.6.

Read more CDC statistics about overdose and death in the United States.

Drug Addiction and Death by Overdose on the Rise in the United States

The most recent statistics issued by the CDC are concerning, to say the least. Across the U.S., drug overdoses are on the rise, and deaths caused specifically by legal opiate overdoses are spiking in exponential numbers. The CDC makes a distinction when tracking the effects of street heroin versus the effects of synthetic (or legal) opiates. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests the increase in addiction to legal opiates is caused by easy access to prescription medications. According to NIDA, the number of opiates prescribed in the United States has soared in the past 25 years. The U.S. is the number one consumer of hydrocodone and oxycontin in the world with the number of prescriptions almost tripling from 1991 to 2013. Not surprisingly, deaths caused by an overdose of legal opiates have also tripled in the last 20 years. Interestingly enough, street heroin and legal opiates are practically one in the same – although those who abuse prescriptions would never consider themselves addicted to heroin. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that street heroin and legal opiates have very much the same effect on the human body and the human brain. Furthermore, withdrawal from prescription medication is very much like withdrawal from heroin.

War on Drugs Vs. Disease Concept

Claiming millions of casualties, addiction has cost the United States trillions of dollars since the 1970’s when former President Nixon declared the now infamous War on Drugs. Back then, Nixon named drug addiction the number one threat to American society. He proposed hefty prison sentences for people found in possession of illegal narcotics and increased law enforcement as the solution to the problem of addiction in America. Thus far, the War on Drugs has been an abysmal failure. Today, the federal government continues to fight the unwinnable war on drugs, in spite of a plea from the American medical community to treat addiction as a health crisis, rather than a criminal issue. To put this in perspective, in 2013, the Obama administration requested $25.6 billion in federal spending to fund the War on Drugs. As the War on Drugs wages on, however; there is a strong recovery movement in the United States. Addiction experts, recovering addicts and alcoholics, and health care advocates are working hard to decriminalize drugs and begin a more uniform approach to addiction treatment in this country. Many believe the problem of addiction in the U.S. cannot be solved until the federal government ceases to fight the War on Drugs and instead allocates much-needed resources to treatment, recovery, and education.

Recovery from Opiate Addiction

There is hope for those who have an addiction to opiates. Addiction may be far-reaching, but so too is the effort of the recovery movement. Just as harmful drugs have made their presence known in communities across the U.S., so have quality treatment centers, addiction specialists, recovery experts, effective and affordable detox programs, and 12-Step groups. Typically, recovery from opiate addiction begins with a detox program and a stay at a residential treatment center. Quitting heroin and other opiates can be deadly. Heroin withdrawal almost always requires supervised, round-the-clock care to ensure that detox is safe and successful. In conjunction with a detox program, inpatient rehab offers a safe place for the addicted person to sober up and get help. Programs run for 30, 60, and 90 days. For those who qualify, treatment is often offered at little or no cost. Where professional addiction treatment stops, 12-Step groups like Heroin Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are available. There is life after opiate addiction. For many, this life is created in the rooms of 12-Step programs, which offer regular meetings for those who wish to live a sober lifestyle. Recovering addicts find peer support in these groups and create formidable bonds with people who can relate to their situation. There are almost 15,000 rehabilitation facilities in the United States that offer addiction treatment for those who want to find freedom from opiate addiction. The only way to see a decrease in the number of opiate-related deaths in the U.S. is to help one addict at a time. Do you have an addiction to opiates? Take this quiz and find out of you need help with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.