The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that about 91 people per day die in the United States as a result of opioid abuse. Without question, this is the drug epidemic of our time — and the CDC fears that the problem may be even worse than forecasted.
Broadly speaking, opioids are a class of medications that are prescribed to relieve pain. But let’s be clear: opioids are significantly stronger than over-the-counter pain medication such as Advil or Tylenol, and even stronger than prescription-only acetaminophen. Opioids are modern medicine’s last line of defense against pain, and with good reason. If an individual who does not have high-level, excruciating or chronic pain takes an opioid, the medication will take them above a baseline state and into a sensation of euphoria.
You may think that these white pills are somewhat harmless or unassuming looking, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you may not realize it, but opioids are closely chemically related to both heroin and morphine. The difference is that, while you might associate innocent looking white pills with the idea of “real” medicine, while thinking of heroin as “dirty” street drug, the two operate along extremely similar biological pathways.
The medical community has understood for several years that there is an over-prescription problem with opioids, which has caused people from all walks of life to develop a crippling addiction problem — despite many of them never trying a “real drug” (think: street drug) in their life. The reality is that it is all-too-easy to fatally overdose on opioids, as well as develop an abuse problem that destroys your life from seemingly all sides.
As mentioned above, one of the main ways we can stem the huge opioid problem in this country is to make sure prescribing doctors are all on the same page about what conditions it is acceptable to prescribe them for. A well-meaning doctor can prescribe someone this highly-addictive medication and unknowingly set them on a path toward devastating opioid abuse.
This focus becomes even more critical after recent inspection by the CDC that reveals the death toll from opioid abuse may be worse than imagined. They use the example of a gentleman whose autopsy listed both pneumonia and opioid toxicity, but whose death certificate only listed pneumonia. There is reason to believe that instances like these are artificially skewing our data to underreport the total number of opioid-related deaths.
The medical community across the country has identified opioid abuse as one of the biggest public health crises facing us as a society. It’s up to us to be personally responsible for the substances we knowingly ingest, our doctors to carefully prescribe these powerful pills only when absolutely necessary, and our education system and media to educate people about the inherent dangers of opioid addiction.