History of Opioid Epidemic in the US

Opioids is classified as a drug substance that could produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief, such as morphine. There are many different types of opioid used for pain or recreational usage such as Heroin, Fentanyl, and morphine. These drugs all trace back to a single plant known as the Opium Poppy which dates to the early human civilization in ancient Mesopotamia.

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The history of the opioid epidemic began near 1990’s when a sudden rapid increase of overdosing on prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs. The opioid epidemic has occurred in three waves in 1991, 2010, and 2013. The Xalisco Boys, who were heroin traffickers, expanded opioid drugs across the United States in the early 1990’s. This essay will explain what opium is, how the Opioid epidemic started and how the opioid epidemic affects our modern world today.

Opium and Opioid are often used interchangeably but they are two types of narcotic pain-relieving drugs. Opium comes from the milky sap of a flower called Opium Poppy. Opioids refers to drugs that are man-made, synthetic, or mimics the effects of Opium. The early civilization known to use opium were Mesopotamia around 3400 B.C. During these ancient times, these civilizations used opium to help people sleep, to relieve pain, and even to calm crying children. Opium were used as anesthesia during surgery and for its recreational usage, but no one knew about the addictive side effects. Opium were likely introduced in China through the Silk road which connected Europe to Central Asia, India and China. “In 1898, Bayer, a German pharmaceutical and life sciences company, invented diacetylmorphine, known as Heroin” (dreamland). The opioid long-term effects are drowsiness, slowed breathing, constipation, unconsciousness, nausea, or coma. Continuous abuse of opioid can result in physical independence and addiction. Opioid affects every parts of the body, specifically the brain and the stomach. The usage of opioid creates an intensity of a high feeling. Opioid tolerance can occur, resulting people to use a significant number of doses to achieve the same high feeling. 

The opioid epidemic has occurred in three waves. The first wave began in 1991 when deaths involving opioids began to rise following a sharp increase in the prescribing of opioid and opioid-combination medications for the treatment of pain. The increase in opioid prescriptions was influenced by reassurances given to prescribers by pharmaceutical companies and medical societies claiming that the risk of addiction to prescription opioids was very low. During this time, pharmaceutical companies also began to promote the use of opioids in patients with non-cancer-related pain even though there was a lack of data regarding the risks and benefits in these patients. Communities, where opioids were readily available and prescribed liberally, were the first places to experience increased opioid abuse and diversion (the transfer of opioids from the individual for whom they were prescribed, to others, which is illegal.)

The second wave of the opioid epidemic started around 2010 with a rapid increase in deaths from heroin abuse. As early efforts to decrease opioid prescribing began to take effect, making prescription opioids harder to obtain. The people turned to heroin, a cheap and widely available illegal opioid. Deaths due to heroin related overdose increased significantly between 2002 and 2013. Heroin is commonly injected, which puts users at risk for injection-related diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, skin infections, bloodstream infections and infections of the heart.

The third wave of the epidemic began in 2013 as an increase in deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The increase in fentanyl deaths has been linked to manufactured fentanyl used to replace other drugs of abuse.

Opioids addiction affects millions of American and their families. There is no demographic that has not been touched by the opioid epidemic. For the past 30 years, opioid is still on the rise. Opioids, synthetic substances that mirrors the effect of opium, are responsible for more accidental deaths in the United states than any other cause. The statistics for opioid use and opioid-related overdoses are alarming. Every day, opioid addiction affects millions of American and their families. About one hundred and fifteen American die each day due to opioid-related causes, and an estimated 7,000 people are treated each day for opioid-related complications.

Unfortunately, in most areas of the United States, people who abuse legal and/or illegal opioids can easily obtain them. Prescription Opioids are generally administered in medical environments for patients to reduce painful sensations of illnesses or injuries in the body. Patients who are no longer able to legally obtain the drugs when prescriptions run out often turn to illegal drugs, which are normally easier to find. Illegal opioids are widely available on the streets of many cities from drug dealers, gang members, and addicts, proving to be a cheaper, but powerful alternative to prescription opioids. Many of Heroin’s victims are people who once used prescription medications, but transition because people develop a tolerance to their medication.

Opioids are highly addicting and available for a variety of users and age ranges. Opioid addiction is not unique to any specific group. Children, women, professionals, and middle to upper-class families can all get trapped in the grips of opioid addiction, among many others. Veterans, for example, are prescribed opioids to soothe post-combat injuries. Members of the LGBTQ community may turn to opioids to relieve minority stress. College students may find abusing opioids sedates anxiety or may find themselves pressured into opioid use at parties. Opioid use in elderly populations is not uncommon, as many can find heroin and fentanyl effective pain relievers if they lack access to prescription medication.

Young children and adolescents are not immune to opioid addiction and dependency. Children have a higher risk of opioid addiction if their parents were addicted. Expectant mothers who are addicted to opioids can pass the addiction to their unborn babies, as chemicals pass through their blood stream into the unborn child’s. As a result, babies are born with symptoms of Opioid withdrawal, low body weight, and several birth defects. Children can access and use prescription drugs they find in their parents’ cabinets without their parents’ consent. The impact of parental opioid abuse can impact children who do not use drugs, as they lose out on important parent-bonding time necessary for child development. Children in homes of parents on drugs may not be able to form functional emotional connections needed for the child to feel connected and nurtured by their parent. Some parents who are addicted to Opioids may unintentionally neglect their children, resulting in childcare services removing children from their parents.

Expose to different opioids can further increase addiction. Opioids like Fentanyl can be mixed with stimulants like Cocaine without the users’ knowledge, creating an intense release of feeling good chemicals with fatal outcomes. Due to the release of endorphins (reduces our perception of pain), users who are seeking to fill a void can find themselves experimenting with stronger opioids. Morphine, for example, may not hold its power after months or years of use, and can be replaced with Fentanyl, which is one hundred times stronger and incredibly easy to overdose.

Element of Thought

Purpose: Dreamland describes a story that America is facing a threat, the opioid epidemic.

Question at issues: Addiction, painkiller medication and abuse, Xalisco boys that contributed heroin.

Information: Timeline of Opioid, black tar heroin—cheap, potent, and originating from one small county, Xalisco, Nayarit, on Mexico’s west coast and independent of any drug cartel, assaulted small town and mid-sized cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing

Interpretation and Inferences: If doctors/pharmaceutical companies can find a way to relieve pain without the use of opioid medical treatment, it could possibly prevent the addiction of opioid medicine.

Concepts: People who were treated with opioid medicine will have an opioid tolerance and addiction to it, causing people to abuse the pain relief drug and solely rely on the drug to live throughout the day. Others will seek out other types of opioids such as heroin or fentanyl.

Assumptions: Addictions can be terrifying. People tend to abuse and take opioids for granted. Opioid prescriptions are supposed to be used for their purpose and described by the doctor.

Implication and Consequences: People who abuse opioid or developed a sense of the drug will most likely become addicted. Opioids will increase people’s tolerance to use the drug significantly.

Point of View: Doctors and Pharmaceutical are the primary source for opioids/opium as they are used for medical purpose. The making of opioid from drug dealers and investors, will typically spread the drugs across the country for business and recreational usage.

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