When most people think of "opiates," dangerous narcotics like
heroin likely come to mind. However, over the last few years, a new kind
of legal opiate has been claiming the lives of thousands of Americans
all over the country: opioid painkillers. Below, we take a closer look
at this disturbing trend and what we can do to help end it in your own state.
What Is an Opioid?
An opioid is a powerful painkiller derived from the same poppy plant that
heroin is. Essentially, these drugs block pain signals from reaching the
brain while also increasing dopamine levels, creating a "high"
in a patient.
Initially, these drugs were reserved for patients experiencing severe pain
from serious, life-threatening conditions, but in 1996, OxyContin was
developed and marketed as less addictive-- making it an explosively popular
prescription throughout the country. Unfortunately, many of the patients
who are legally prescribed these drugs develop a dependence on them which
can quickly spiral out of control.
Other drugs considered opioids include:
- Vicodin (hydrocodone)
- Percocet (oxycodone)
- Kadian (morphine)
- Avinza (morphine)
Recently, the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl has been in headlines
due to the death of pop icon Prince. Prince passed away due to an accidental
overdose of the drug, which is known to be more than 50 times more powerful
Why Is Addiction Such a Problem?
While many advocates and lawmakers have pushed for new legislation to limit
the marketing and prevalence of opioid prescriptions, investigations have
shown that the pharmaceutical industry has fought against this reform.
A report from the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press
revealed that these companies have spent more than $880 million on political
contributions and lobbyists to counter legislation that would potentially
reduce their opioid profits.
Meanwhile, here are some numbers behind this epidemic:
- Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled.
- Every day, 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for opioid abuse.
- In 2014, opioid sales reached $1.98 billion.
- In 2014, 14,000 people died of opioid abuse.
What Can I Do?
Many states are making efforts to better regulate opioids, including creating
patient registries, which would prevent people from a practice known as
"doctor shopping." For more information on opioid addiction
and what your state is doing to combat this worsening epidemic, visit
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who have been wronged by others, including pharmaceutical companies. If
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