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Prescription Drug Abuse: a Long-lasting Epidemic in The Us

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There is a disastrous disease rampaging through the United States — and it is being prescribed to its victims. This monstrosity of an outbreak is being referred to as the Opioid Crisis and is taking the world by storm. Opioids are powerful, pain-relieving drugs that have a numbing effect similar to morphine. While some opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, are illegal and synthetically made, there are many that can easily be accessed at the local doctor’s office; these drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. This epidemic began as an innocent attempt by medical professionals to more easily create pain management for their patients; however, due to the surplus of opioids provided by pharmaceutical companies, and the drug’s easy accessibility, both ill and healthy human beings are becoming addicted to opioids.

Towards the end of the 1990’s, pharmacies encouraged those in the medical community that their patients would not become dependent on opioids; which guided healthcare providers to begin prescribing the drugs at an increased rate. According to the National Poison Control Center, “During this time, pharmaceutical companies also began to promote the use of opioids in patients with non-cancer related pain even though there was a lack of data regarding the risks and benefits in these patients. By 1999, 86% of patients using opioids were using them for non-cancer pain.” This discovery exposed the fact that individuals were in fact misusing these drugs.

With time, the number of individuals that took place in this drug abuse skyrocketed. As a result, the medical community began to hinder the prescriptions of opioids; however, this obstacle turned users to a more potent, and illegal alternative.

Heroin was the next best option for those unable to be given opioids. Lindsy Liu, a Certified Specialist in Poison Information, states, “The use of heroin increased in both sexes, the majority of age brackets, and all socioeconomic groups. Deaths due to heroin-related overdose increased by 286% from 2002 to 2013, and approximately 80% of heroin users admitted to misusing prescription opioids before turning to heroin.” The increase in the demand of heroin led to an increase of the illegal manufacturing and selling of it, allowing synthetic opioids to be added. Lindsy Liu also states, “The sharpest rise in drug-related deaths occurred in 2016 with over 20,000 deaths from fentanyl and related drugs. The increase in fentanyl deaths has been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (not diverted medical fentanyl) used to replace or adulterate other drugs of abuse.” Over the decades, individuals have grown dependent on these drugs and the effects they inflict — creating a dramatic impact on not only the individuals experiencing personal experiences with the addiction, but the economics of our country and government.

This epidemic is extremely costly, not only to those affected, but to our government paying for the repercussions. The Opioid Crisis Organization describes the multiple financial aspects of this situation:

“They arise from (A) medical care for individuals suffering from opioid-related addiction, or opioid-related overdoses or medical conditions; (B) treatment of infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; (C) counseling and rehabilitation services for individuals with opioid addiction; (D) social services, including income assistance, food assistance, and housing assistance, for individuals suffering from opioid addiction and their families; (E) social services, custodial care, and education for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation; (F) law enforcement and public safety efforts relating to the prescription opioid epidemic; and (G) lost productivity of their citizens.”

The Opioid Crisis Organization also gives a more clear and shocking representation of how much is spent on this outbreak when they write, “It is estimated that the costs to all levels of government are $78.5 billion annually at least, and this does not include the financial impact on individuals and families.” This despairing period of addiction not only causes severe emotional and financial stress for those directly involved but imposes a severe financial toll on our country.

In response to this catastrophe, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are imposing several actions to aid our nation in its recovery. They plan to make access to recovery services easier for those seeking treatment, advance treatment practices, and continue to spread awareness about the issue. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports, “In April 2018 at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis.” With organizations like this working together to not only attack the opioid addiction itself, but to also help individuals already affected, this dilemma can be controlled.

Addiction tears through families and often leaves them feeling hopeless. It is an extremely dark concept that is understood, and lived, by far too many. It causes extreme emotional and financial despair of the user and is then carried through those surrounding them. The consequences of this crisis cost the government billions of dollars a year, and it has been rushing through the country for over a decade now. An idea intending pain management and stress relief, turned into the opposite — it grew to be the start of a long-lasting epidemic causing millions of deaths, and costing millions of dollars. 

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Prescription Drug Abuse: A Long-Lasting Epidemic In The US. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from
“Prescription Drug Abuse: A Long-Lasting Epidemic In The US.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
Prescription Drug Abuse: A Long-Lasting Epidemic In The US. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
Prescription Drug Abuse: A Long-Lasting Epidemic In The US [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from:
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