The United States is in the midst of a huge epidemic. We’ve seen waves of drug abuse in America in the past, but the level of opiate addiction is now at an all time high. This is an issue we can’t ignore.
The Statistics Speak Volumes
But just how serious is this matter? Is it really as big of a deal as everyone’s making it out to be?
Simply put, yes it is. These statistics point out the bleak state of addiction the US is experiencing. In order to set a course for change we must identify the root of the problems.
Opiate related overdoses are now claiming more lives per year than auto accidents. A powerful resource by the University of New England points out the following staggering statistics:
- Americans only make up less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 80% of the world’s overall supply of opiates.
- We also consume 99% of the supply of hydrocodone.
- 78 American’s die from overdoses every day: over 60% of those cases involve opioids.
- 4 out of 5 new heroin users started out abusing prescription painkillers.
- Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults (18-25) in the past decade.
Furthermore, a graphic from Beaches Recovery points out several other facts about opiate prescriptions and pitfalls of overdose recovery:
- 9 out of 10 people who have overdosed on painkillers are prescribed more pills for follow up recovery.
- People who continue to take painkillers after an overdose, are literally twice as likely to overdose again in the near future (the following two years).
- Opiate overdoses in the past six years have accounted for a total of half a million deaths.
It’s clear that a health crisis has landed as heroin and other opioids are being abused in record numbers. But what got us here? And is change on the horizon?
More Potent Drugs Are Exactly What We Do Not Need
We live in a time where people believe there is always a miracle cure that exists or a magic pill that will make our symptoms disappear. While this possibility will likely come into existence in the far future, that is not the current reality. Taking synthetic drugs is the status quo procedure for most to alleviate aches and pains without much forethought for the long term approach to health. There is not much emphasis put on nutrition, dietetics, herbalism, or any other alternative medicines. Nonetheless, certain precautions should always be taken when delving into various non-scientific alternative forms of medicine.
Big Pharma is absolutely out of control. As one of the largest and most profitable industries, it’s obvious that the companies creating toxically strong painkillers do not have the public’s best interests in mind and only their bottom line.
In fact, the prescription drug companies are now creating even more potent and deadly opiates.
Considered by many to be the contemporary version of Oxycontin, the drug Zohydro is essentially a more potent, time-release version of hydrocodone. It can be up to ten times as powerful as hydrocodone and is abused because of the lack of inclusion of other over the counter painkillers.
Another top concern for heroin addicts specifically is the drug Fentanyl. An article from Fusion points out the following information about the drug:
“351 people overdosed fatally on opiates last year in New Hampshire, according to data provided to Fusion by the state’s medical examiner. Twenty-eight of those victims overdosed on heroin alone; fentanyl was a factor in 253 of the deaths.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s so potent that an amount the size of three grains of sugar is lethal to an adult. First synthesized in the 1960s by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, fentanyl was initially used as a general anesthetic during surgery. Its only acceptable, “‘on-label’ use is for reduction of severe pain in cancer-sufferers.”
The overproduction of these drugs must cease to help curb this epidemic. There also needs to be more discussion on intelligent recovery methods.
Promising Rehabilitation Tech
Fortunately, some very promising tech advancements are in place for opiate addicts.
A newfound implant recently approved by the FDA, Probuphine, helps curb heroin cravings. This is done by a matchstick-size implant incrementally emitting low doses of the drug buprenorphine over the course of six months. This is favorable because it gives a constant stream of relief for addicts experiencing heavy withdrawals, but doesn’t provide the person with too much of the drug.
What about recovery methods that do not involve more prescription drugs? The answer comes from a somewhat unexpected niche within tech: Big data and analytics.
An article on FedScoop yesterday states:
“The Obama administration announced the creation of its “Data-Driven Justice Initiative” Thursday, trumpeting its new partnership with seven states and 60 municipalities to use high-tech techniques to move nonviolent offenders out of jails.
In the coming months, several federal agencies will work with the states and municipalities to help them beef up their data-sharing and analytics efforts, as will a variety of prominent tech companies like Amazon Web Services and Esri.”
But don’t just take their word for it. Here’s what President Obama and rapper Macklemore had to say on the issue of opiate addiction in the US: