It’s not new news that the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, however, prescriptions have lost their driving status to illicit fentanyl and street heroin.
Let’s see what happened.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), America is experiencing a crisis of drug overdose deaths but we already knew that, right? Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers.
Flash forward to 2017, did you know that illicit fentanyl and heroin are now the main reasons for those accidental deaths? A top official from the CDC recognized and spoke to the public that prescription painkillers are no longer leading the race behind America’s opioid epidemic.
That was Then
This is now —in testimony a few weeks ago at a congressional hearing, Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said that heroin and illicit fentanyl were primarily to blame for the soaring rate of drug overdoses.
“Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicates these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl,” Houry remarked.
Houry did reiterate that the rise in fentanyl, heroin and prescription drug overdoses are not unrelated.
Mo Money Mo Problems
Illicit batches of fentanyl are being made throughout China, exported to Mexico, where drug dealers mix it with heroin or turn it into counterfeit medication before smuggling it into the U.S where American drug dealers sell it on the street —without really knowing what’s inside.
They only see dollar signs.
The problem is, these dealers want to make their drugs last as long as possible and profit the same. So they lace their product with other substances that match the drug’s effects. As a result, these people really don’t know how anyone will react to the additives since the buyers go in thinking it’s one drug when in fact, it’s something else.
That said, people are literally dropping dead left and right from street heroin laced with fentanyl.
If you want to understand how bad the opiate epidemic in America has become, look no further than New Hampshire —one of many states suffering. You remember the epic Presidential Election of this year right? Well, presidential candidates were crisscrossing the Granite State while campaigning. Both candidates were flooded with questions about addiction and overdoses.
Politicians Say What?
“I was not prepared to hear from so many about what was happening in the families of New Hampshire —addiction and the heroin epidemic, which is at one of the highest rates in this state of any in the country,” Hillary Clinton told attendees at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire on Jan. 22, 2017.
351 people overdosed on opiates last year in New Hampshire alone, according to data provided by the state’s medical examiner —28 of those victims overdosed on heroin and fentanyl was a factor in 253 of those deaths.
While painkillers may be playing less of a role in the overdose epidemic, CDC Official, Houry considers pain medication to still be the gateway drug for many abusers —as many as 80 percent of new needle-heroin addicts used prescription pain medicine first.
It’s Really the Gateway to Hell
Houry also cited statistics from Ohio showing that nearly two-thirds of the people who overdosed on heroin or fentanyl received at least one opioid prescription in the seven years before their deaths.
Houry disputed reports that efforts to reduce opioid prescribing have led to increased use of illegal drugs. It was her office that oversaw the development of these controversial CDC guidelines that discourages pain doctors from prescribing opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.
And in my opinion, those reports are correct.
In fact, per evidence from a recent survey of over 3,100 patients by Pain News Network and the International Pain Foundation, the CDC guidelines have reduced access to pain care, harming many patients in the process, therefore, causing some to turn to illegal drugs for pain relief (called it).
Over 70 percent said their opioid doses have been reduced or cut off by their doctors in the past year. And one out of ten patients (11 percent) said they had obtained opioids illegally for pain relief since the guidelines came out.
With these new regulations in place, too many pain patients are being lumped in with addicts.
The fact remains that yes thousands are utterly addicted, however, not all pain patients who take opioids are addicted; I can’t say that enough.
There will always be two sides to every story, yet it seems the headlines these days only show one. We need to share how we feel without fear of judgment or shame. If you’re being treated unfairly by a medical professional or even your friends and family, say so. If your doctor refuses to write you a prescription, find another one. There’s always a new treatment to try. There’s always another way.
The world suffers a lot —not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people.
So, speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.