America’s Drug Overdose Epidemic

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The opioid epidemic is one of the most rapidly-spreading crisis’ the nation has been faced with since the 1980’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Overdose rates have increased from 16,849 in 1999 to 70,237 in 2017 (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Even short-term use of opioids can lead to addiction. To put an end to this ongoing crisis, the government should take more aggressive measures such as stricter opioid prescribing laws, funding and embracing prevention, and helping those who have already fallen victim to the epidemic. This essay will discuss the opioid crisis in the United States by analyzing the impact of the crisis on the people of United States of America and further provide recommendations on the actions the government of USA can take to deal with the growing crisis of opioid overdose. However, to understand the proposals on the steps that the government and the public can take against the opioid crisis, it is essential to first understand the impact of the crisis on the people of the USA.

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The most significant effect of the opioid crisis in the United States is the rising number of deaths related to opioid overdose. It is estimated that about 115 Americans die daily due to opioids overdose cases. An additional 1,000 Americas are treated at hospital emergency Units every day due to cases related to opioid overdose. In 2016, about 42,000 Americans lost their lives from opioid overdose cases, and about 40 % of the deaths resulted from a prescription overdose of opioids. The fact that circumstances of death resulting from opioids overdose have risen to overcome the total number of death by car accidents and gun violence has elevated the status of the crisis to a national health crisis. The problem has caught the attention of the white house, and the president released a statement declaring the epidemic a national health crisis. According to the president, “the opioid crisis has replaced the American Dream with the nightmare of Addiction” (Trump 00: 58).

The impact of opioid addiction and overdose epidemic goes beyond health effects that are mostly deaths. besides, opioid addiction costs the United States about $ 78.5 billion in economic burden. These estimates are according to reports y the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The economic burden caused by opioid addictions and overdose “include the cost of treatment of opioid addiction, healthcare costs, and cost of criminal justice involvement” (Opioid Overdose Crisis). However, beyond the impact of the crisis on the people of the USA is a critical question that remains in the minds of those who continue to hear the news of the opioid epidemic in the country. The same question will continue to be a matter of interest in future researches and to the children of this generation. 

Several factors have contributed to the rise of the opioid crisis to the current status of a national health epidemic. According to a research by Vadivelu et al (2018) in the Current Pain and Headache Report, factors such as “inappropriate prescription, lack of proper understanding about the potential long-term effects of certain drug prescriptions and abuse of opioids” (Vadivelu et al 19) have been the biggest contributors to the rise in opium addiction and overdose. Opioid abuse has never been a problem in the United States until recently. Cases of celebrity deaths resulting from misuse or overdose of opioids were the first to heat headlines raising the red flag on the prevalence of the problem in the USA.

The genesis of the issue of opioid overdose traces back to the late 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies managed to assure the American Medical Community that the active pain-relieving medications were necessary for the American people. Additionally, they assured the medical community that the drugs would not cause addictions among patients. Before the medical community found reasons to believe that the opioids could be highly addictive, these drugs were flying off the shelves, and their abuse was a factor that was already prevalent in the American community. By 2017, opioid addiction had become a national health epidemic, and the government had no choice left but to declare it a national health crisis (NIDA 247).

To put an end to the opioid crisis, the White House must embrace prevention. According to The Conversation, research has proven that prevention is effective at enhancing human functioning and reducing psychological and physical distress. Expanding preventive services will reduce the costs of substance abuse and mental health care. Implementing a nation-wide media campaign can help address to the public about the dangers of addiction and abusing opioids. Campaigning will ensure that communities stay drug-free. In 1996, a “Tobacco Free Kids” campaign launched, and throughout the years has sky-rocketed. According to their 2017 annual report, adult smoking in the U.S decreased from 42 percent to 15 percent. Since 1996, the campaign has cut adult smoking by 39 percent, and youth smoking by over 70 percent. The progress that the Tobacco-Free campaign made over the years shows that with the right campaigning and effort, we can see the same drop in the opioid epidemic.

The promotion of stricter opioid prescribing laws nation-wide is also a very significant step that the government of the USA can take towards ending the opioid crisis. However, this approach requires a multi-agency approach that includes the different departments of the government concerned with the problem, private institutions such as pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacturing of opioid drugs, and Anti-drug addiction humanitarian groups. Luckily, all stakeholders in the United States currently acknowledge the scope of the problem and have been involved in various programs that seek to boost the government’s efforts in seeking for solutions and an end to the epidemic. While the government searches for the appropriate legislation that may ensure stricter opioid prescription policies, organizations such as the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has in the past decade been involved in “extensive research and initiatives that seek to improve the risk-benefit balance of opioids” (Alexander 12-8-1217).

FDA has proposed several initiatives that can help end the crisis such as strengthening the warning on the drug labels to create more awareness among users of the adverse effects of the misuse of drugs. This essay recommends the use of the word “death” in the warning message that the institution proposes that should be written on the drug labels. Additionally, the FDA proposes that the government should ensure the mandatory expansion of prescriber education programs and ensure that patients are barred from automatically refilling their prescription drugs without the help of their prescribers. Additionally, the FDA proposes issuing of guidelines to the pharmaceutical industries about the development of abuse-deterrent formulas on opioid products. These policies will tighten the opioid prescription laws and help in ending the crisis.

According to German Lopez (2017), in an article in the Vox, much of what has been done in the United States is only focused on reducing the flow of the opioids drugs in the market, and the initiative has failed terribly. The failure is owed to the fact that the reducing the number of drugs in the market does not reduce the rate of addiction in the market and is not a policy-based approach to solving the problem, but instead a method or reducing the problem and will only lead to lesser deaths, yet not solve the problem. Additionally, the author argues that President Trump’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a national health crisis does not effectively solve the problem., In essence, the author tries to dive the point that creating awareness is not finding solutions.

Lopez also argues that the administrations move to cut spending on drug addiction treatments provided by Obamacare shows lack of commitment towards ending the opioids addiction and overdose crisis. The author further adds that “the most significant bills passed by Congress over the crisis only approximated $ 1 billion allocations, which fall short of the billions of dollars’ proposal by research studies” (Lopez 54).

Lopez further argues that there is a conflict of interests between the two sides involved in the communication and formulation of policies that seek to end the rate of opium addiction. While one side of the group has focused on ending the flow of the opioid drugs, the other has insisted that the solution lies in the expansion of opioid drugs treatment. However, the author presents an expert opinion on the matter that shows that both sets of action are necessary if the country is to end the rate epidemic. Lopez presents the argument of an expert in the communication concerning the opioid epidemic. According to Keith Humphrey, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, the parties involved in the policy formulation should understand that “the opioid crisis, in fact, a story of two crises explained as the dual problem of “stock” and “flow”, and that policymakers need to look at both when seeking solutions (Lopez 54).

Conclusion

the opioid crisis is a solvable problem. However, seeking solutions to the emerging crisis requires the joint effort of all stakeholders in the US. The government of the United States has the biggest role to play in the development of locations that can end the epidemic, and not reduce or control it. The decision by White House to declare the issue a national health concern should be enough reason for Congress and the other budget allocating institutions to declare allocation of more money into the program. However, allocation of money without formulation of right policies that are aimed at stopping the crisis is only a waste of national resources. Therefore, as the government continues to allocate money as required towards the study and development of solutions to the epidemic of opioid deaths, it should also engage all stakeholders in the formulation of policies that will ensure that the allocation is not wasted.

Works Cited

  1. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” National Institute on drug abuse (2019): https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis.
  2. Alexander, Tatyana Lyapustina & G. Caleb. “The prescription opioid addiction and abuse epidemic: how it happened and what we can do about it.” The Pharmaceutical Journal (2015): 1208-1217. https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/the-prescription-opioid-addiction-and-abuse-epidemic-how-it-happened-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/20068579.article?firstPass=false.
  3. Lopez, German. “How to stop the deadliest drug overdose crisis in American history.” Vox (2017): 54. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/8/1/15746780/opioid-epidemic-end.
  4. President Trump Delivers Remarks on Opioid Addiction. Perf. Donald Trump. 2019. 14 April2019..
  5. Vadivelu, Nalini, et al. “The opioid crisis: a comprehensive overview.” Current pain and headache report 22.3 (2018): 16.
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America's Drug Overdose Epidemic. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved September 27, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/americas-drug-overdose-epidemic/

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