Over the past two-plus decades, over 760,000 Americans have died due to the opioid crisis that has plagued our nation. The number of drug overdose deaths often increases year-over-year and has quadrupled since 1999. Furthermore, of the over 70,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2019 alone, 70% were opioid-related. This situation has become severe enough that it is considered a national public health crisis.
Before we jump more into the statistics surrounding this dangerous problem, let’s take a closer look and get a better understanding of what the opioid epidemic actually is.
What Exactly are Opiates?
The term “Opiates” actually refers to a roster of drugs. These range from legal drugs such as fentanyl, codeine, and morphine to illegal drugs such as heroin and opium. If you’re Googling “what is the opioid epidemic”, they are all part of the problem.
Opiate examples include:
- Hydrocodone (trade names include: Vicodin and Lortab)
- Oxycodone (trade names include: OxyContin and Percocet)
Often, the term “opioid” is used in reference to prescription opiates. Technically speaking, the concept of “opiates” includes drugs naturally derived from the opium poppy. The “opioid” moniker is different. It includes synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs. These are modified versions of the opiate building blocks. Generally, the term “opioid” is usually used in reference to prescription drugs. The terms “opiates” and “opioids” are often used interchangeably.
What is the Opioid Crisis?
If you have even slightly been paying attention to the news in the past decade or so, chances are that you’ve heard of the opioid crisis or the opioid epidemic — but you may not know exactly what it is. The Opioid Crisis is a national public health problem that began in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies allegedly used deceptive marketing tactics to get their prescription medications more mainstream.
As doctors began to prescribe these drugs more, misuse, abuse, and addiction began to take hold. From there, other issues started to spread and, soon, the United States was seeing tens of thousands of Americans suffer from opioid overdoses each year.
Let’s take a closer look at how this crisis started and how it evolved over time.
When Did the Opioid Crisis Start?
As mentioned before, the opioid crisis began in the late 1990s but is something that has persisted over the past two decades. This epidemic can best be understood by looking at the three distinct waves that characterize this event.
1. The Rise of Prescription Opioids
As we’ve already discussed, the opioid epidemic first began when pharmaceutical companies behind drugs like OxyContin began to mass market their products in allegedly deceptive ways and allegedly saying they didn’t have addiction potential. As we know now, this was false.
From the late 1990s to today, there have been tens of millions of opioid prescriptions made for people dealing with chronic pain. And, even some of those who followed the prescription guidelines carefully dealt with abuse and addiction-related problems.
2. The Resurgence of Heroin
Following the first wave of the opioid epidemic and the many prescriptions to natural and semi-synthetic opioids, people looked to continue to fuel their newfound substance abuse issue in any way they could. For some, this meant looking into other, cheaper alternatives like heroin.
The second wave of the opioid epidemic began in 2010 with a rapid rise in heroin overdose deaths that have slightly tapered off in the past few years.
3. The Emergence of Synthetic Opioids
The third and current wave of the opioid crisis started in 2013 and is characterized by the rise of synthetic opioids, specifically illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Oftentimes, illegal drug manufacturers will cut their products with fentanyl due to the cheapness and addiction potential of the drug — helping to maximize their profits.
Unfortunately, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are extremely potent and have a lot of overdose potential.
These three waves help to demonstrate how the opioid crisis started and has changed and molded over the years. Now let’s look at its specific impact on the country.
The Opioid Crisis in America
The opioid epidemic has led to major problems and changes in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden for opioid misuse in a single year is around $78.5 billion dollars — this number comes from the costs of healthcare, lost wages due to productivity, criminal justice costs, addiction treatment, and more.
Along with the monetary costs of the opioid crisis, it is important to look at the social costs. Since the epidemic began in the late 1990s, more than 760,000 Americans have lost their lives due to opioid-related causes.
Let’s take a closer look at some quick statistics about the opioid epidemic to further put the situation into perspective.
Opioid Epidemic Statistics
- In 2019, over 10 million people over the age of 12 misused opioids
- The number of naloxone prescriptions, a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose doubled from 2017 to 2018
- 745,000 people used heroin in the past year, 50,000 of which used heroin for the first time
Overcoming Opioid Addiction
When it comes to opioid addiction, and addiction treatment in general, there are many routes that can be taken to get the help you or your loved one needs to conquer addiction.
Medication-Assisted Treatment — Medication-assisted treatment is a common complementary style of treatment that is used in conjunction with talk therapy to help clients overcome their addictions. People who deal with opioid addiction may struggle with dangerous withdrawal symptoms when they go through the early stages of sobriety. Clients who receive MAT will be able to
Dual Diagnosis Treatment — Along with medication-assisted treatment, clients who are dealing with co-occurring mental health disorders can go through a dual diagnosis treatment program to ensure that they are treating both problems simultaneously. Whether the issue is depression, anxiety, PTSD, or something else
The District’s Opioid Treatment Program
If you or your loved one is looking for an opioid treatment program or another type of substance abuse treatment, The District can help you.
The District is an organization based in Huntington Beach dedicated to helping people overcome their substance use disorders. The District Recovery Community is partnered with a number of different organizations that can provide help for any step in the recovery process.
Whether you are looking for a drug or alcohol detox, an inpatient rehab facility, an IOP program, or just a community support group, The District can get you the help that you or your loved one needs.
If you are interested in learning more about how The District can help you, please reach out to our admissions team today.