Thursday January 17, 2019

The opiate crisis in the U.S.

In the 1960s and 1970s, heroin began to receive national attention when certain musicians died from overdoses, as well as addiction in soldiers who were Vietnam War veterans.

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Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ - mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

Nobody intends to suffer drug addictions, regardless of what drug it is you are dealing with. Among the drugs that are constantly in the media spotlight for their bad reputation of overdoses is opiates, which include several varieties that are widely popular for their relaxation effects.

Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers. Contrary to many schools of thought, opiates are very easy to access and attach to, and before you know it, you are on a downward spiral, spending money on purchasing new supplies, and eventually leading to overdose and death.

Opioid abuse, which involves drugs such as heroin, prescription pain relievers as well as synthetic opioids is very serious – it affects diverse sectors of the economy including health – the cost of addiction treatments like opiate detox is about $78.5 billion annually.

This article will seek to examine the rate of opioid crisis, particularly in the U.S. It explores how the drug became a major problem in the consciousness of the American public, as many people suffer addictions to the drug regardless of their age or socio-economic status.

How do opiates work in the body?

Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ - mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.
How Opiate Works in Body

You may wonder what makes opiates so addictive, even when compared to other drugs. The use of opiates is very popular among various individuals and drug addicts because of their high risk involving overdoses and addiction, as well as their wide availability. Many people use them as both recreational drugs and for medical treatments (like anesthesia).

They work by sedating the part of the brain that controls homeostatic activities like breathing, which is the respiratory control part of the medulla oblongata. Therefore, when consumed in high doses, they present high possibilities for respiratory failure, respiratory depression, and death.

The epidemic is on serious levels in recent years, as the U.S. DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) mentions that almost half of opioid fatalities in 2016 were due to prescription opioids. This makes them a greater cause of deaths currently than gun violence and car accidents.

History of opioid problems in the U.S. – a summary

In the 1960s and 1970s, heroin began to receive national attention when certain musicians died from overdoses, as well as addiction in soldiers who were Vietnam War veterans. When these cases began to rise in profile, medical professionals were hesitant to prescribe them to patients, except in the case of pill mills.

However, things took a turn in the 1990s, with pharmaceutical manufacturers assuring the medical community that there would be low cases of addiction to opioid painkillers, resulting in patients receiving these drug prescriptions at higher rates than before.In fact, since the 2010s, the rates of legal prescription opiates is steadily reducing, but overdoses are increasing at very high rates.

Some of the popular opioid drugs include:

Oxycodone

You may wonder what makes opiates so addictive, even when compared to other drugs. The use of opiates is very popular among various individuals and drug addicts because of their high risk involving overdoses and addiction, as well as their wide availability.
Drug Medicines

In America, this happens to be the most popular recreational drug. First available from the late 1930s, the FDA put it under the category of Schedule II drugs (it has a high chance of addiction and abuse).

Recent developments have led to the drug’s removal from sale by the FDA guidelines due to public health concerns. In 2012, the Canadian drug formulary also removed it from their list of legal drugs.

Heroin

This is a sort of clinic that gives patients narcotics without a real medical reason. They are a major cause of the opiate problem, as they are a major supplier chain for black markets that deal with illegal painkillers.
Medicines

Another drug in high circulation (even though it is illegal),many individuals who abuse heroin are actually abusers of prescription opioids previously, making it dangerous to have an addiction to painkillers. Its use has been on the rise for several years, as indications show more than 600,000 Americans consume the drug (in 2009-2011). its use has steadily increased over several years making it hard to keep track over related deaths or rehab treatments.

Fentanyl

This is a more recent opioid painkiller that is synthetic in nature. It happens to be 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 30-50 times stronger than heroin. In fact, doses as little as 2mg are lethal. In fact, the DEA recommends that officers should not touch or smell the drug as it can result in fatalities.

Fentanyl was not common in the past, but nowis a major issue especially with the bigger cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia.

What are Pill mills?

This is a sort of clinic that gives patients narcotics without a real medical reason. They are a major cause of the opiate problem, as they are a major supplier chain for black markets that deal with illegal painkillers. They can charge exorbitant fees for the patients, therefore making large profits for their businesses. Some states such as Florida prohibit the sale of prescription opiates to curb the problem.

Also Read: Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Florida Home Safe from Pests

What is the NIH and HHS doing to address the problem?

It is no secret that the rise in opiate use has become a big problem. However, the U.S. DHIH (Department of Health and Human Services) is focusing the fight against opioids through five pillars, which are:

Improving the understanding of the problem through public health monitoring

Among the major issues that lead to the problem is stigmatization, which leads to avoidance of the issue. However, experience teaches you that avoiding problems is not equal to solving them, and the key to starting the recovery process is to combat the problem head-on.

This also relates to public education and awareness, so that if you see the signs in your loved one or are going through it, you will know what to do before the problem escalates.

Enhancing access to recovery services

Drug use is associated with stigma in many cultures, even within America. It is therefore vital that all agencies involved step up recovery centers to reduce stigma. This also encourages public conversations around the issue and assists you to recover in case you are battling an addiction.

Giving support to addiction and pain research

Drug use for many individuals stems from a painful situation, and they want to seek comfort in drugs, even though it is not healthy. In order to prevent this, more resources need to go to conducting research and seeking methods that help in managing addictions, including opioid withdrawal.

Final thoughts

Opioid use is not only a big issue within the U.S. in terms of health and loss of productivity, but also an increase in fatalities from overdoses is part of it. The problem lies with certain factors helping in its spread and use, such as its easy accessibility. However, concerted effort by all the parties in the case can help curb the issue.

Next Story

Concerned Zimbabwe’s Citizens Start an Anti-Drug Campaign

While that may help, when young people have finished playing, they still find themselves unemployed and in the same conditions

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Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

A group of concerned Zimbabweans has started an anti-alcohol and drug campaign, targeting communities in which unemployed young people resort to drinking and using narcotics to alleviate the stress of not having work. Those involved in the campaign say the solution lies largely with improving the country’s moribund economy.

Fewer than three in 10 young Zimbabweans have steady jobs. Many are idle and see no economic opportunity. For some, that leads to problems with alcohol and drugs.

Church leaders, community leaders, and government officials have started warning youths of the impact of drug and alcohol abuse in Zimbabwe and its effect on their physical wellbeing and mental health.

With drug use growing in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has called for an all-stakeholders meeting on February 1 to come up with possible solutions.

Zimbabwe’s deputy director of Mental Health Services, Dr. Chido Rwafa, says the government cannot deal with the problem of substance abuse alone.

HIV, Drugs
More than half of the people surveyed who inject drugs said they avoided health-care services, citing discrimination or fear of law enforcement authorities.VOA

“Alcohol and substance use is a rising problem in all of Africa, and also in Zimbabwe, and it has become one of our top three diagnoses that we are seeing in our mental health unit, so it is becoming a problem. We need a coordinated approach to this problem. It is a multi-sectorial problem. We need a combined effort between government, between non-governmental organizations, with the community itself,” Rwafa said.

Youths are susceptible to peer pressure and can easily gain access to drugs, says Dr. Rwafa. Once hooked on drugs, they also become more likely to engage in criminal activities.

This 20-year-old asked us not to film him when he was smoking cannabis. He says drug use would fall if more people could find employment.

“The best way is just to improve our country economically such that all those people loitering in the streets will find jobs and will be focused. We are going nowhere. Even if you are to look (in the streets), there are some other people damaged (by drugs). Fifty percent of youths in the streets, they can not even work. Their life has been destructed by drugs etc. It is not that they want drug abuse,” Mandizha said.

drug
Young people with the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association get ready for a performance at “Theatre in the Park” in Harare, Zimbabwe, as they campaign against drug abuse, Feb, 2, 2018. VOA

Roman Catholic Priest Cloudy Maganga is trying to reduce substance abuse by youths by keeping them busy and offering counseling.

Also Read: To Boost Revenues Zimbabwe Hikes Traffic Fines

“Within our hall, upstairs we are creating what we call a study center for the young people. We will have computers… We have also started what we call the sports for the young people. We have created a volleyball pitch, we have created also a netball pitch for the young people so that when they are free, during their free time, they can be engaged in sports, everyone here. So at least with that we are removing them from being just idle,” Maganga said.

While that may help, when young people have finished playing, they still find themselves unemployed and in the same conditions youths like Takudzwa Mandizha say make them turn to drugs. (VOA)