The United States is in the midst of one of its worst ever drug crises. Recently, the problems have become so severe that it’s no longer possible to call America’s opiate problem anything but what it truly is—an epidemic. This is precisely why, in October 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a Public Health Emergency in order to hopefully better combat the current crisis. In this sense, understanding the facts behind the opiate epidemic is helpful in realizing all the problems that solving the crisis could help to prevent.
Decrease the Number of Overdose Deaths
Looking at the US opiate epidemic by the numbers paints an extremely frightening picture in terms of the pain and destruction it currently causes. In 2016 alone, a total of 42,249 people died from some form of opiate overdose. Whether the death was from prescription opiates, illegal synthetic opioids or heroin doesn’t really matter. What matters more is that the country finds a way to get more help to the more than 2 million Americans with an opiate abuse disorder.
Limit the Costs of the Opiate Epidemic
One of the major reasons that the US government is finally taking more action in an attempt to stop the opiate crisis is that it has suddenly become extremely expensive. In fact, estimates put the total yearly cost of the epidemic at more than $500 billion. This is obviously a huge amount of money especially when you consider the fact that it is more than six times the country’s yearly federal education budget.
Stop Prescription Opioid Abuse
Although many people tend to talk more about heroin, the fact is that prescription opiates are a far bigger problem. Nearly 2,000 more overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to commonly prescribed opiates than to heroin, but this has much more to do with the number of users than anything else. This is borne out by the fact that approximately 2.1 million people abused prescription opiates for the first time that year compared to only around 170,000 that tried heroin for the first time.
Understand the Difference Between Heroin & Other Opiates
The statistics show that prescription opiates and other synthetic opiates account for far more deaths than heroin. Nonetheless, the fact that almost one million people used heroin in 2016 still shows that it is a major problem. In fact, it can be a far bigger problem in terms of the damage and destruction it can cause to the addict and their friends and family.
Realize That Prescription Opiates Are a Gateway to Abuse
In 2016, more than 11 million people misused prescription opiates, and at least some of these people will go on to become addicted. Most will stay will prescription or other synthetic opiates, but approximately four to six percent will eventually transition. This may not sound that significant at least until you consider the fact that approximately 80 percent of all heroin users first started by misusing prescription opiates.
Looking at these numbers quickly shows how big of an uphill battle the country faces to overcome this newest opiate epidemic. This means that it is going to take a concerted effort on the part of health professionals, addiction specialists, addicts and their friends and families to have any hopes of combating the problem and hopefully stopping it for good. In this sense, if you know someone who is an addict, one of the best things you can do is look for non-addictive opioid withdrawal treatments for whenever they’re ready to get help. Overcoming opiate withdrawal is extremely difficult and also dangerous without professional assistance, but the fact is that it is always the first step on the road to recovery.