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America’s Opiate Epidemic: Is There a Solution?

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Medically reviewed: 03/12/2019
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When discussing drug use in America, there’s no doubt that it’s a problem, especially when it comes to opiates like heroin and prescription pain pills.

Worldwide, there are between 26.4 and 34 million people addicted to opiates, and here in the US, there is over 2.1 million. Heroin addiction alone impacts an estimated half a million people, and the numbers continue to grow.

Communities from rural America to the heart of Her cities have been impacted and even people who’ve never used drugs know someone who’s been affected by opiate addiction. If you’re addicted to opiates and ready to get help, now’s the time.

Prescription Opioids

Opiate Epidemic

Doctors should recommend exercise and lifestyle changes for pain management instead of opiates.

During the last 20 years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of prescriptions doctors are writing for narcotics. In 1991, 76 million pain pill scripts were written and filled, while in 2011, the number more than doubled, jumping to 219 million.

While there are multiple reasons for this, one is that social acceptance of using medications to deal with ailments. The last 25 years have seen more prescriptions written in general, as people are always looking for an instant, easy cure for whatever ails them.

Since so many more people are taking and prescribed pain medications, it’s no wonder the surplus of opiates is finding its way to the streets. This supplies the addicts, as well as those whose were prescribed the pain medication and then, for whatever reason, it was no longer available.

Just because the doctor isn’t prescribing them doesn’t mean the body and brain don’t crave them, and those people who got addicted simply by following their doctor’s orders are now seeking drug dealers to get what they never realized they were addicted to.

Heroin: The Cheap Alternative

But these pills aren’t cheap. As a matter of fact, they’re downright expensive. And chances are no addict can support an illegal prescription pain pill habit for long. With strong pills costing upwards of $100, many eventually turn to heroin as a cheap alternative.

With a stamp bag costing around $20, people can still get their high and keep their withdrawal symptoms under control with heroin.

What’s the Solution?

While there is no easy solution, there are things that can be done to help get America’s opiate epidemic under control. First and foremost, doctors must take some responsibility when prescribing narcotic medication. Recent research shows that opiates are not nearly as effective for chronic pain as once thought, and may even end up counterproductive, causing individuals to experience more pain then they would have otherwise.

Instead of automatically reaching for the prescription pad, doctors need to encourage patients to find non-medicinal ways of dealing with their pain including biofeedback, diet changes, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

Patients on prescription pain pills need to be educated on drug tolerance and addiction, as well as regularly screened for addictive behaviors.

People must also be given the opportunity to get into drug and alcohol addiction treatment without a societal backlash or fear of losing their job. Treatment needs to become affordable and medically assisted treatment options need to become more readily available.