The American Opioid Epidemic, Explained

The American Opioid Epidemic, Explained

The American opioid epidemic is a significant health issue that has reached a crisis level. Along with heroin, opioids have contributed to 75,673 deaths in the United States in a 12-month period ending April 2021. Created as a “safer” alternative to opiates and earlier prescription painkiller medications, opioids have devastated those addicted, their families, and communities across the United States. 

With no end in sight, lawmakers and healthcare policymakers have been scrambling to find solutions to stem the tide of this epidemic which claims over 130 lives per day.

This article will discuss the opioid epidemic in America in greater detail. We will dive deeper into what opioids are and why they are so addictive. We will also discuss the origins of the opioid epidemic in America and where you can find help if you are struggling with prescription painkiller addiction.


What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of synthetic and semi-synthetic medications that doctors commonly prescribe to help patients manage pain from major surgeries and chronic diseases such as cancer. These medications are designed to attach to opioid receptors found in the brain as well as the stomach and the spinal cord. When administered, opioids block pain messages from transmitting through the body. As a result, people on opioid medications feel a tremendous sense of euphoria and relaxation.

Common opioids that doctors prescribe include:

  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Percodan
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone

Drugs such as heroin and morphine are often included as opioids. While technically known as opiates because they are created from the sap from the poppy plant, they produce the same effect as synthetic opioid medications.


Why Are Opioids Addictive?

There are many people who feel that opioids are “safe” because they are prescribed by doctors and used to treat legitimate medical issues. The reality is that opioids are often more potent than opiate drugs such as heroin. For example, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine. When people are prescribed prescription painkillers, it is done under strict medical supervision and monitoring by experienced medical personnel. Even under this strict monitoring, people can still become addicted to opioids.

How is this possible?

As stated earlier, opioids attach to specific opioid receptors in the brain. The connection these drugs have to these receptors is like a key to a lock. Opioids release vast amounts of dopamine, which is known as the brain’s own “feel good” neurotransmitter. The area of the brain dopamine targets is the mesolimbic brain region where the “reward centers” life. As a result, the rush and pleasure felt when opioids are taken are extremely reinforcing. People will take more opioids to replicate those feelings.

People will continue to take opioids because the withdrawal symptoms are painful and uncomfortable to endure. Withdrawal symptoms often appear approximately 12 hours after the last done and can include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Widened (dilated) pupils
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If people have underlying medical conditions or are taking multiple substances, these withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.


History of Opioids and the Opioid Epidemic in America

While opioid addiction in America has been front and center for the past few years, it is not a new phenomenon. The history of the opioid epidemic in America can be traced back to the 1980s. At that time, the general consensus among health providers was that opioid medications were a safer alternative to manage pain. 

In the mid 1990s, Purdue Pharma developed OxyContin, which was touted as being a “safe alternative” and was aggressively marketed to healthcare providers. Operating under the philosophy that opioids were only addictive if used recreationally, doctors increased their prescriptions of opioid medications. There were also vulnerabilities in the healthcare system, with many doctors in private practice who could increase income by seeing more patients and prescribing more painkillers.

Between the late 1990s and 2010, there was a gradual increase in opioid deaths because of the ability for users to stockpile medications due to patient privacy laws and the rise of the black market for medications. When laws were changed, and supplies became more restricted, users transitioned to using illicit opioids like heroin because it was more plentiful and inexpensive. 

Around 2013, heroin dealers began to cut their products with fentanyl and other fillers. The use of fentanyl in this capacity created an explosion in overdose deaths for several years. This effect is continued to be seen today.


Don’t Become Another Statistic… Call The Last House Today!

The American opioid epidemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. If you are struggling with opioid addiction, today is the day to get professional help. Located in Santa Monica, CA, The Last House is a premier men’s sober living program in Southern California.

With three decades of cumulative experience, our treatment staff has a proven track record of helping those in the grip of opioid addiction. No matter the severity of your addiction, our individualized treatment programs will give you the tools and support you need to overcome your opioid addiction for good.

Call The Last House today and begin your recovery journey.

Important Addiction Statistics in the United States

Important Addiction Statistics in the United States

Drug addiction is a major health and social issue in the United States. It affects people from all walks of life and in every community across the country. You may not see the effects of drug addiction on a daily basis, but the impact of drug addiction in your community does impact you and your family. To grasp the immensity of this problem, this article will outline addiction statistics in the United States that will make you take notice. You will also know the key reasons why addiction is common in the United States and where you can get help if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction.


Why is Addiction Common in the United States?

When looking at addiction in the United States, it is essential to understand the reasons why it is so common across the country. The following data from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) show the shocking rates of drug use in the United States:

  • 139.8 million Americans 12 and over drink alcohol
  • 14.8 million Americans over the age of 12 have an alcohol use disorder
  • 58.8 million Americans use tobacco
  • 31.9 million Americans use illegal drugs
  • 2 million people, or 24.7% of those with substance use disorders, have an opioid disorder

So why is drug use and addiction so common in the United States? One major reason is the ongoing opioid epidemic. Along with heroin, prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet are responsible for over 70% of drug overdose deaths in 2020. While effective in helping people manage the pain from surgery and chronic diseases, opioids are highly addictive, and people become easily hooked—even if under strict medical supervision.

Another reason why addiction is common in the US is the changing viewpoints people have about substances and substance use. With the growing movement to legalize marijuana to the portrayal of substance use on social media, drinking and drug use are increasingly seen as normal and even acceptable behavior. Additionally, the increasing stress of everyday life leads more people to use substances as a coping mechanism. This can include work stresses, family issues, the rising cost of living, and increasing financial burdens.


Important Addiction Statistics in the United States

To fully grasp the drug problem in America, you need to take a deeper look at the addiction statistics supplied by reputable sources and agencies. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 23 million Americans have struggled with substance abuse. Of that number, 75% fail to seek treatment for their addiction. It is also estimated that 8.5 million people have a dual diagnosis where they have a co-occurring mental illness along with drug addiction. This condition is challenging to treat and requires specialized help.

In 2020, there were 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Drug overdoses have now become the leading cause of death in this country. The third-leading cause of death in the United States is alcohol, with an estimated 95,000 people. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is also responsible for 28% of all driving fatalities and comprises 18.5 percent of all emergency room visits. For those who do become clean and sober, the chances of relapse are surprisingly high. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of those in recovery will relapse at least once during their recovery.


Do You Need Help With a Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. If you are struggling with substance abuse, you may feel hopeless and feel you are fighting a losing battle. While you may feel hopeless, help is just a phone call away. The Last House is a sober living facility in Los Angeles specifically tailored for the unique needs of men who are seeking recovery. We offer outpatient and aftercare programs that are customized to fit your unique and specific needs.

Our staff has over 30 years of combined experience in the addiction treatment field. Our programs, services, and support will transform your life. In addition to our programs, we offer fun and engaging activities such as basketball, surfing programs, sober softball leagues, snowboarding, ski trips, among other activities. The support network built at The Last House will motivate and empower you to live a fulfilling life in recovery.

For Los Angeles men’s sober living, call The Last House today!