The Opioid Crisis: Conquering Pain & Addiction in the U.S.
The current opioid epidemic dominates the discussion among national health leaders, recovery advocates and families nationwide. Opioids include heroin as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others. Opioids interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. While generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, opioids can produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. Misuse is a serious problem, which can be taking an opioid without a prescription, or in more significant quantities than are safe. Dependence, addiction, overdose (leading to death) are genuine concerns with regular opioid use.1
Addiction is defined as chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual who is pathologically pursuing reward and relief by substance use and other behaviors.2 Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older who had a substance use disorder in 2015, two million involved prescription pain relievers and 591,000 involved heroin.3 The statistics from 2015 are catastrophic: 52,404 lethal drug overdoses; 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers; and 12,990 heroin overdose deaths.4
In 2014, a total of 10.3 million people reported using prescription opioids without a prescription. Emergency room visits involving the misuse or abuse of prescription opioids increased 153 percent between 2004 and 2011. Admissions to substance-abuse treatment programs linked to prescription opioids more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2012. Between 2000 and 2014, the rates of death from prescription-opioid overdose nearly quadrupled (from 1.5 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 persons).