Sympathy for the nation’s opioid crisis | The Triangle

Sympathy for the nation’s opioid crisis

Photograph courtesy of Adam at Wikimedia

Addiction. What is it? Most people don’t understand. Perhaps they are addicted to caffeine or video games, but physical, mind rending addiction is not something most people intrinsically understand or can sympathize with.

With opioid addiction (synthetic or natural) comes not only a dependence on the drug itself, but it also creates a positive feedback loop. Opioid addiction, in most cases, causes the addicted person to become fully immersed in the drug, causing them to ignore family, friends and other important things in their lives.

Doctors in the U.S. have a major problem with the over-prescribing of drugs. This overprescription is not necessarily the doctor’s fault either. What is a doctor to do when a patient insists they are experiencing severe pain? The doctor can’t just tell the patient to deal with it, if they did that they would lose money and the patient would just go to another doctor anyway. So the doctor prescribes an opioid pain killer. Sure, one instance of this might not be that bad in the scope of creating an epidemic, however, the problem arises when hundreds of thousands of doctors and millions of patients are involved.

Nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population (nearly 3 million people) have a substance abuse disorder that stems from prescription opioid pain medications or heroin addiction. While this number may seem large right now, it gets worse when you realize how fast deaths related to this problem are growing. Since 1999, the non-suicide related deaths from prescription opioid overdose has increased by a multiple of four. Additionally, correlations have been found between non-medical directed use of prescription opioid pain relievers and the abuse of heroin.

I’m not saying that we should stop prescribing opioid pain relievers. People should not be asked to suffer without these pain relievers. Yet at the same time, doctors should be cognizant of the dangers these drugs impose on society.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies advertised to the doctors and medical professionals that addiction was not a danger when it came to their prescription strength opioid pain relievers. Again, it’s probably not the pharmaceutical companies fault, I’m not trying to play a blame game. Pharmaceutical companies should also be aware of the fact that their drugs can cause major detrimental impact on people and society.

Also, major scientific breakthroughs are not always good ones. Today, synthetic opioids can be found being sold to humans illegally like Fentanyl and Carfentanil. Fentanyl has been found to be nearly 100 times stronger than morphine and Carfentanil has been found to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine. With this extra potency comes an equal overdose risk.

While Fentanyl was originally created for human patients, Carfentanil was primarily created to be used as an anesthetic for large animals (elephants, horses etc.). These dangerous synthetic opioids have found their way to the illegal drug market and can be found being cut into heroin to make the drug more potent and more addictive.

Slowly, we as a nation have been recognizing the dangers of opioid addiction and coming up with methods to decrease addiction levels. However, the rate has only been increasing. The number of people dying from overdose of opioids is above 10 in 100,000. To put that into perspective, the number of deaths related to car crashes about 10 in 100,000. Think about that for a second. Nearly the same rate of people are dying from opioid overdoses as people are dying from car crashes.

We need to fight this epidemic. We need to take this problem seriously. However, this problem falls prey to the human condition. What we ourselves do not experience, we ourselves cannot sympathize with. For people who have never been addicted to opioids, it’s nearly impossible to understand the physical attraction and addiction opioid abusers have to the drug. I hope that people will start to understand that this is not a problem only weak-minded or mentally unstable people have, I hope that people can start to understand that this is a real problem that can affect anyone. With understanding comes a solution.