The opioid epidemic is an ongoing problem with often fatal results. Car crashes, once the 5th most common cause of death, have been replaced with opioid overdoses. There is a 1 in 96 chance that a person will overdose on opioids while they have a 1 in 103 chance of dying in a car crash. The statistics are concerning, as this means that opioid misuse seems to be becoming a more prevalent issue.

How did opioid abuse become such a problem? The opioid epidemic is partly caused by the medical community, with opioids often being over-prescribed to patients. Unfortunately, 29 percent of patients misuse their prescriptions, and 80 percent of heroin addicts start their drug addictions by abusing opioid prescriptions. Fentanyl, in particular, has been especially problematic. It is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and has 30 to 50 times the potency of heroin. This makes it extremely addictive and deadly.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a plan to solve the opioid crisis. They have listed five priorities to put an end to opioid abuse: improving access to treatment and recovery services, promoting greater use of overdose-reversing drugs, increasing public health surveillance, conducting more research on pain and addiction, and promoting better alternatives to pain management. 

Non-opioid analgesics have been found to reduce opioid use in hospitals by 40 percent. However, these pain relievers have been controversial, as many people in the medical community have felt that opioids are the best way to cure pain. Times are changing, however, and hopefully, we will see a reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions and greater use of alternative pain management treatments.

It is important to remember that addiction is a disease, not a choice. Many of the people who abuse opioids are people who were prescribed the drugs for pain. If you or anyone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, it is vital to seek help. Every day, 128 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses. These are deaths that can be prevented if intervention occurs early enough. Information on how to receive help can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.