The United States and the Ongoing Opioid Epidemic

The United States is facing an unprecedented drug epidemic. Every week, over a thousand people die from overdoses related to opioids, and the numbers are getting even higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, there are millions of Americans who are struggling with opioid addiction.

But why is this a problem in the first place, and why is it getting worse now? Let’s talk about that:

Why the Opioid Crisis Is Worsening

The opioid crisis has become a major issue in the US, with the overprescription of pain medications being a major factor. Unfortunately, this problem has already become rampant in the past few years due to the introduction of illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl supplied by foreign drug cartels. The effects of this crisis have been felt in the form of billions of dollars in health care expenses and a weakened workforce. It has become such a large problem that it threatens the country’s security and economy.

The Responsible Drugs

In recent years, there has been a rise in the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The DEA, which is the top American agency that deals with drug abuse, has stated that fentanyl is the main cause of the opioid crisis. Fentanyl has been described as “manufactured death” because it is much cheaper and much more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl-related deaths are mostly due to the misuse of the drug, although it can also be prescribed for pain relief.

Additionally, the CDC has mentioned that people often combine heroin and fentanyl with drugs like cocaine and alcohol, which increases the chances of an overdose.

The Opioid Epidemic Scale

Opioid overdoses have been a growing problem since 1999. In 2019, it was estimated that around fifty thousand people died from an opioid overdose. The latest numbers from 2020 and 2021 show that this number has risen to around seventy thousand and eighty thousand, respectively. This has ultimately led to opioids becoming a factor in life expectancy decline in the US ever since 2015.

Doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis due to the over-prescribing of opioids and the aggressive marketing of these drugs. This has caused a huge increase in the number of people using these drugs, even if unnecessary. Doctors felt pressured to give patients opioids instead of other treatments, such as physical therapy or acupuncture because they were requested by the patient and other treatments were more expensive or less accessible.

To make matters worse, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the opioid crisis. Due to changes in the availability of drugs, more people have started to use substances they are not used to. Additionally, people who use drugs have been more isolated from others due to social distancing, leading to more people using drugs on their own.

The Consequences of the Epidemic

The opioid issue has caused far-reaching damage, not only to individuals and families but to public health as a whole. It has led to a dramatic increase in the prevalence of hepatitis C, HIV, and other infectious diseases due to people sharing needles. Also, pregnant women who take opioids can pass this dependency to their unborn children, often manifesting in neonatal abstinence syndrome or withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns. This has caused an alarming rise in the number of children in foster care.

The problem doesn’t stop at the population’s health. The opioid crisis has also wreaked havoc on the American economy, with the CDC estimating that the total cost of opioid misuse and overdose in 2017 was a staggering $1 trillion, not to mention the decrease in labor-force participation.


All in all, the opioid epidemic is getting worse, and with so many people under the influence and addicted to such drugs, help is needed to ensure one can easily break out of such reliance. If you or someone you know is addicted to opioids or wants to cut back on opioid use, be sure to reach out to an addiction institute for help. With their assistance, you can safely break free from your addiction, being given a chance to live a better life once more.

American Addiction Institute of Mind & Medicine is a leader in IOP drug rehabilitation, offering intensive outpatient and medication-assisted programs to help individuals overcome drug abuse. If you are looking for addiction treatment centers in Orange County, call us today and get help!

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