A prescription drug has become one of the leading causes of death in America

An epidemic has been slowly growing throughout the years, with the effects just recently coming to light: opioid addiction. According to the National Safety Council’s 2017 report, opioid overdoses moved into the top five causes of death in the country, surpassing car crashes.

Opioid addiction began rising in the late 1990s because people believed that medical practitioners were not treating pain properly. Those in the medical field began taking classes on how to treat pain. Doctors began prescribing higher doses of opioids and pharmaceutical companies guaranteed that opioid pain relievers were not addictive, the National Institute on Drug Abuse stats.   

Bob Lesiw, a Walgreens pharmacist, remembers taking classes on pain relief.

“There’s really no ceiling to what you can give because feeling is subjective and they shouldn’t have to live in pain,” Lesiw said.

Opioid addiction should have been addressed sooner. Opioid overdoses have become more and more of an issue through the years and have not been taken seriously until now.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Despite this, Congress has done little to combat opioid addiction.

According to an article by Vox, “The most significant bill passed by Congress over the crisis appropriated $1 billion to drug treatment over two years—far from the tens of billions a year that studies suggest the crisis actually costs.”

However, the United States Department of Health and Human Services released a five-step plan to combat the opioid epidemic. There is no guarantee that this will work since funding is an important part of implementation. To have the opioid epidemic truly slow down, a full-blown nationwide effort needs to happen.

State legislature has been trying to combat the epidemic. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, in 2018, 33 states passed legislation limiting opioid intake. These state laws still need a lot of work because they are affecting those who suffer from chronic pain disorders, who use opioids as an effective treatment.

According to a story by Kaiser Health News, Shannon Hubbard, an army veteran who has a chronic pain disorder, strongly feels that the laws being passed on opioids should be revised.

Reform laws that were passed negatively affected many people with chronic pain. Hubbard says that her doctor required her to reduce her intake and did not give her a clear reason as to why. Doctors have hands-on experience with opioid prescriptions and know the patients who are at risk. Because of this, they should be in involved in these conversations.

One of the biggest dangers of the opioid epidemic is that it can lead to heroin addiction. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 80 percent of heroin users misuse prescription opioids before using heroin.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated there was a rise in heroin overdoses in 2010 and fentanyl abuse in 2013. They also found that overdose deaths are now six times higher than they were in 1999.

The only way to stop someone from dying from an opioid overdose is naloxone, a prescription drug that can be given to those who are on the brink of an overdose because it reverses the effects of opioids.

“The issue is that naloxone is not free –– its a couple hundred dollars. It’s readily available but you have to pay for it,” Lesiw said.  

If Congress provides more funding to slow down the opioid epidemic, access to naloxone may increase. Greater access to naloxone will help decrease the number of opioid overdose deaths.

Prevention tactics such as raising awareness for the danger of opioids through media must also be taken. Future generations need to know that addiction does not come from solely illegal drugs. By educating others on addiction and reducing the stigma around it, this will allow opioid users to get the help they need. This is a topic everyone should be educated on.