The Opiod Epidemic and the Criminalization of Addiction

In the beginning of the 1990’s, opioids and opioid-combination medications were being prescribed and introduced as a form of treatment to relieve pain. At the time, it was said that the likelihood of getting addicted to the prescriptions were very low, therefore, pharmaceutical companies didn’t hold back in prescribing the drugs to people even excluding cancer related pains at even greater rates. As a result, this led to the mistreatment of both prescription and non-prescription opioids in a form that increased opioid abuse and caused widespread diversion. Currently, the United States is facing an opioid epidemic that is getting way out of hand. Every day, more than 115 people overdose and die due to opioid abuse ranging from prescription painkillers to even heroin. This is a serious national crisis that ultimately affects public health and safety, as well as social and economic welfare for all citizens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention carefully estimates that the yearly total of the ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year. The extremely high evaluation includes the costs of healthcare, criminal justice involvement, addiction treatment, and lost productivity. With President Donald Trump declaring the country’s opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on October 26, 2017, what are the possible solutions to the greatest opioid epidemic in the country’s history? Personally, I think to solve the opioid epidemic we have to prevent more people from becoming addicted. This requires much more cautious prescribing, officials going out in local neighborhoods in all states and providing service and support, improving access to treatment and recovery services, as well as promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs through social media.

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The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is stressfully trying to address the issue and asses a new way to deal with it through the public and other government run departments. On the CDC website, they have a feature labeled “Confronting Opioids” which offers the history and everything anyone needs to know about opioids. It is clear that they are aware of the issue but the solution isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. The CDC plays an essential role in opioid overdose prevention and takes a public health approach to address key aspects of the epidemic by having a five-point strategy to preventing opioid overdoses and harms. The image on the left shows the CDC’s plan and how the strategies will go in a cycle, in the hopes of helping the epidemic. It is an effective way to provide funding for research and supporting healthcare systems, but the CDC can also use their large platform to inform the public about overdose-reversing drugs. As a resident in Philadelphia and even having to clean up needles in my local job one time, I would like to help the community to make the living environment safer. Other citizens are willing to help as well without a doubt, but may lack knowledge on how to do so. Therefore, the CDC should inform and persuade locals to carry naloxone incase they ever run into somebody that is in desperate need of life. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have the ability to raise awareness to the general public about the overdose-reversing drug due to them being partnered with other government departments and I think they should take initiative on doing so, whether it’s on the news or a television ad.

Opioids killed more people last year than either car accidents or gun violence. It’s scary to think that you’re more likely to survive driving on a daily basis or being shot, than overdosing on drugs. This crisis of addiction can affect any American, from college undergraduates to a mother of five beautiful children. The President finally took affirmative action and said, “I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis” as mentioned on the White House website. President Trump also indicates on how to tackle the epidemic by addressing “The most urgent goals and readily quantifiable achievements will be a reduction in overdose episodes and deaths, increased entry into and adherence to high quality treatment, and a reduction in prescribed opioids” (Whitehouse.gov). To add, Trump and his administration set aside a Federal Drug Control Budget that focuses on broad areas that, ultimately, will help the country with the epidemic. These mainly focus on prevention, treatment, domestic law enforcement, interdiction and international involvements. To go into detail, billions of dollars are set aside in each category and are distributed amongst sub-categories as shown in the table above. From the looks of it, the money seems to be covering every aspect that is needed from homelessness to education programs in school, but not enough is being done with opioid users on a face-to-face level. For example, the 126 page President’s Commision report doesn’t mention anything about going to communities with high opioid overdose rates and offering treatment for users. Money should also be handed to state officials who can help smaller communities within the States. Just like Philadelphia and other corrupt cities, there is an organized group trying to provide treatment for users, but unfortunately, there isn’t enough capital so they depend on donations from locals. If there was more capital flowing into states, users could seek help on a personal level, which, in my opinion, is more effective.

The nation is wide awake and aware of the terrible impact that the opioid epidemic serves on families and communities in our states and local communities. In addition to this devastating human toll, government and other authorized departments budgets are being stretched at every possible level. The public and emergency health systems are asked to meet heightened demands for services that save lives, but there simply isn’t enough capital for them to do so. There is a terrible urgency to find solutions to help those who continue to suffer from the effects of opioid addiction. Author Kathleen Sebelius from “The Hill” beings to state that in order to overcome the nations epidemic we should “…..strongly urge local and federal lawmakers to work towards lasting, long-term solutions that both address opioid misuse and addiction now and help avoid the next crisis.” She urges that, currently, opioid medications continue to be easily prescribed in the United States, and a small group of clinicians prescribe opioids in large quantities and with little monitoring of effectiveness or addiction in patients. But, suppressing overprescription is just a small piece of the bigger picture necessary to tackle this epidemic. A crisis this complex and widespread requires a “comprehensive response that engages every tool available to help prevent and treat addiction” (Sebelius). Sebelius clearly underlines ways on how to treat the epidemic, but can only do so much as talk about it. Like many citizens, we don’t hold the authority or power to make change unless we all come together as a whole.

With drug overdoses killing more than 72,000 people in the United States last year, solving this crisis requires all parties and departments to work as a unit in tackling the complex origins of the epidemic with an attentive, sustained response. Our nation gradually enrolled in the epidemic crisis and it will gradually be resolved one step at a time. As Trump said at the end of his interview, “To be successful, we must adopt an all-of-the-above approach to seek long-term solutions so that we can save lives and move our country forward.” 

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The Opiod Epidemic and the Criminalization of Addiction. (2020, Dec 16). Retrieved September 29, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/the-opiod-epidemic-and-the-criminalization-of-addiction/

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