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1.3 Million Americans Needed Hospital Care for Opioid-Related Issues: How Did We Get Here?

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Much has already been said about the opioid epidemic that the United States faces. Numerous articles have been written about the 33,000 people that died from opioid-related overdoses in 2015, which was the first time in history that more people died from opioids than from gun-violence. Much debate has occurred over better access to treatment, and an overhauling of the American criminal justice system in order to treat alcoholics and addicts as sick people rather than as criminals. Police have described time and time again about the horrors they witness day in and day out as they have to administer Narcan to those people caught in the throes of addictions. State and local officials have held press conference after press conference on the destruction that fentanyl and carfentanil have brought to their towns and cities, with one city even having to employ the usage of a refrigerated truck in order to house the bodies of overdose victims. Yet with all of these terrible stories and statistics floating around, probably the more frightening, and most shocking one of all was released last week by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Their report found that in 2014, which is the first year that they have complete data sets for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, there were 1.27 million emergency room visits for opioid related causes. This number represents a 99% increase in emergency room visits since 2005, and the study found that it appears that these numbers will continue to increase. That number is astronomical and it shows the extent and totality of the opioid epidemic that we face as a nation because if we think of it in terms of people, that means that 1 in 300 people in this country visited the ER in 2014 because of an opioid-related issue they were having.

Almost every single state in this country has experienced the ramifications of the opioid epidemic, some—unsurprisingly poorer states, have been harder hit than others, but overall not a single state has escaped unscathed. The magnitude of the issue we face is staggering and it leaves us with only one real question: how exactly did we get here in the first place?

The Progenitors of the Opioid Epidemic

It is almost impossible to state explicitly that the opioid epidemic started due to a single solitary reason, although one of the main instigators of the problem was Purdue Pharma and their so-called wonder drug Oxycontin. But even with that said, addiction is not simply a physical or psychological illness, it has social and environmental factors that lead to its development, so as much as we would like to blame Purdue Pharma, and the unethical and dangerous marketing of their highly addictive drug, we have to look beyond that scope to what was occurring in the early 2000s that led to the widespread proliferation of opioid addiction.

Now, on the one hand, the release of Oxycontin, and the fact that it was incredibly addictive, did cause millions of people to fall into addiction that may have never done so otherwise, but this doesn’t entirely explain why many young adults and teens, who were graduating from high school in the early 2000s fell into addiction in numbers that are unrivaled by anything else we have ever seen in history. The reason being is that, if it were merely Purdue Pharma’s fault, then when stricter prescribing laws were put into place, the issue would have been settled, but yet we have seen an explosion of addiction in the years since as well. So this means that something else was and is occurring, something that is causing millennials, of all races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds to fall into addiction in epidemic proportions.

man in the hospital

What we have experienced over the past ten years, socially, politically, and financially are tantamount to an instability that is in direct conflict with the way that many millennials grew up. This is not to say that the housing crisis of 2008, the Iraq War, terrorist attacks, or the current political upheaval in this country caused anyone to become addicted because addiction is not exclusively caused by outside influences, but what these things do point to is the creation of a social climate where addiction can thrive.

We have in a very real sense created the perfect storm for an opioid epidemic. We allowed for the release of an incredibly powerful opioid at the turn of the millennium, which covered the psychological and physical aspects of addiction, and then we proceeded to enter into one of the most turbulent times in American history soon there after, covering the social and environmental factors needed for addiction to sprout. When Oxycontin became less readily available, it created a vacuum, in the already burgeoning market for opioids, which in turn was filled by people just as unscrupulous as Purdue Pharma—people who cut their heroin with fentanyl and other substances that were cheap and tremendously powerful. This led us to where we currently are today, reeling as we attempt to fight back the sea, at a loss for how to even begin to overcome what we face.

While we have made some strives towards getting more people access to proper substance abuse treatment, and by de-criminalizing addiction to a certain extent, we have to understand that addiction represents a soul sickness of sorts on both an individual and societal level. If we continue to fight around the peripherals of the issue and not deal with the underlying causes that create personal and social illness, then we will always continue to lose and will continue to write articles about how the opioid epidemic is engulfing the people of our country.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism or Addiction

Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. It is also the most anxiety producing and frightening thing that they can do in their life, but it doesn’t need to be. With help from the professionals at Elevations Health, you can find a new life in sobriety with the least amount of resistance possible. So call us today at 1-866-200-3224 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Elevation Health.

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