The Opioid Crisis in America

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The opioid crisis that we have plaguing America today began over 30 years ago. There are countless reasons why. Many people that are prescribed opioids to deal with their pain become addicted. Which leads to misuse and death. Governing agencies started to evaluate hospitals and doctors their control of their patients’ pain. Leading to doctors prescribing more opioids. Making individuals grow dependences for these drugs. When this happened, patients started looking for more opioids buying them from illegal providers or doctors willing to prescribe more. Illegal, unregulated sources of opioids laced with dangerous drugs such as fentanyl are now also a factor that is increasing the death rate of opioid overdoses. Opioid misuse impacts all ages, sexes, ethic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and especially those in rural settings. The only way this epidemic plaguing America can be stopped is with the engagement and action of all Health care providers, the pharmaceutical industry, and Federal state government agencies.

Keywords: CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), IOM (Institute of Medicine)

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin as well as other powerful pain relievers. These pain relievers include codeine, morphine, fentanyl and many others. In 2016 more than 42,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States and opioid addiction is the cause behind this epidemic. In this report we will be talking about addiction, the individual and social impacts of opioid abuse, how to manage pain with and without opioids and the medical and non-medical use of opioids.

How The Crisis Started

The opioid epidemic that is plaguing America today started with 3 waves beginning in 1991 when deaths involving opioids began to rise after a large increase in the number of opioid and opioid combination medications for pain. The reason for this increase of prescriptions was because of the reassurances given to prescribers by Big Pharmaceutical companies and medical societies claiming that there was very little risk to addiction. The second wave began around 2010 with a rapid increase of deaths from heroin overdoses. Deaths due to heroin related overdoses increased by 286% from 2002 to 2013, and approximately 80% heroin users admitted to abusing prescription opioids before using heroin. The 3rd and most recent wave of the Opioid crisis began in 2013 when deaths related to synthetic opioid related deaths due to drugs such as fentanyl began to rise. The increase in fentanyl deaths was because of illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The Annual Service Report of drug related risks and outcomes from the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of August, 2017 showed that in 2016 a total of 214,881,622 opioid prescriptions were dispensed by retail pharmacies which averages to 66.5 prescription for every 100 person.

How Opioids Work

The way that opioids work is by attaching themselves to proteins called opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gut and other parts of the body. This blocks pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain. Opioids while being a very effective option of relieving pain, have a very high risk of addiction. Especially when used to relieve chronic pain over long periods of time. The more opioids you use, the more your body grows a tolerance for them. Which leads to individuals needing even more opioids to relieve their pain. This is a very common way people become addicted to opioids from simply needing more of them to relieve their pain. In order to understand why people become so hooked to opioids. Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and behavior. Misusing these drugs can lead to pleasurable effects that make you want to keep using these drugs.

Symptoms of Addiction.

Opioids cause many different symptoms and there are signs people can look out for. Some of the side effects of opioid use can include fatigue, constipation, breathlessness, a sense of elation, bronchospasms, chest pains, and death. Death by opioid abuse is usually caused when an individual is using more than one substance. When you are addicted to opioids and attempt to stop using them. Individuals can feel many different symptoms and side effects of withdrawal. These side effects can include a psychological and physical craving for the drug, stomach pain, nausea, stomach pains, cold sweats, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, anxiety, muscle tensions, trouble sleeping and enlarged or dilated pupils. A study shows that adults ages 18 and over in the U.S. the rate of opioid misuse or abuse is estimated at around 37%. While gender differences have been cited showing that men will misuse opioids almost twice as much more than women do, these rates differ based on the different type of drug 

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The Opioid Crisis in America. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved July 18, 2024 , from

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