A look at substance abuse after 2016

By Alek S.

Addiction is a problem that has been around for as long as there has been civilization. However, based on the understanding of the disease model of addiction, epidemics that are related to addiction have come and gone, throughout time. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of an addiction epidemic that has continued to grow over the past decade. After the statistics that we witnessed in 2016, it’s worth looking at how crucial it is that we address the growing rates of addiction in the United States, as well as worldwide. Here is a look at the substance abuse situation, at the start of 2017…

Overdose is #2 cause of accidental death

Currently, over 100 people die in the United States every single day, due to an accidental overdose. This alarming number is boldened by the fact that overdoses from substance abuse are the #2 cause of accidental death in this country. The main cause of overdose deaths is opioids, by far, whether prescription opioids or street drugs, like heroin. What is particularly alarming about this fact is that the rate of opioids has quadrupled since 1999. This is also true of overdoses, due to opioids. For this reason, it isn’t off base to say that drug addiction is the number one public health crisis that is facing the country, today.

Growing opioid epidemic

As stated above, the rate of opioid abuse has grown over 400% since 1999. From 2007 to 2011, alone, the rate of heroin addiction doubled in America. It’s safe to say that opioid abuse has become an epidemic here, as well as around the world. What is especially nefarious about this epidemic, though, is that it originated from the world of medicine, instead the of the illicit drug trade. The roots of our current opioid problem stem from the copious amounts of prescription opioids that were given out in the mid-to-late 1990’s. Currently, half of all heroin users reported that their addiction began from prescription painkillers long before they ever used heroin, according to the CDC.

This problem is becoming more well known

One bit of good news that we have witnessed in 2016 is this problem has been addressed and recognized for the major issue that it is more than it ever has before. During the presidential election and primaries, we saw candidates discuss substance abuse and methods to approach this problem more than we have since the Prohibition era. This is an excellent first step towards reducing the rate of substance abuse, since it cannot be done without an ample amount of awareness throughout society.

Image courtesy of Baitong333 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Baitong333 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Steps to mitigate prescription abuse

Just as the awareness of addiction has continued to grow, so too has the understanding that we must take steps to stop the opioid addiction from continuing to spread from the pharmaceutical industry. Last year, we saw the first steps taken to reduce the amount of prescription opioids that were sold to the public. New procedures to determine whether an individual is at risk to abuse prescription medication have started to be tested and implemented, as well.

We see drug abuse all throughout pop culture

It’s important to note that drug abuse isn’t something that is restricted to one part of society. It affects every class, race, religion, and ethnicity in our country. Although we hear plenty of coverage about celebrities who have fallen victim to substance abuse, it is a problem that affects the working class just as prevalently (although there is evidence that suggests that creative individuals are more susceptible to addiction). Indeed, it is often the nation’s poor who suffer the most fatalities due to addiction, since they cannot often afford the treatment that is necessary to get on the path to recovery.

2017 might be the peak of the opioid epidemic

According to some researchers at Columbia University, there is a good chance that 2017 might be the peak of the opioid epidemic. In a 2014 report that was published in Injury Epidemiology, the Columbia researchers say that they ran the current numbers of opioid addiction and compared it to other epidemics in the past (as well as behavioral health issues, like obesity) and concluded that it would probably follow the same cycle of rise and decline, based on public awareness and preventative actions. Based on this model, they predict that the numbers of opioid-caused deaths will decline to 1980’s numbers by 2034.

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