Epidemic Of America: What You Should Know About The Opioid Public Health Emergency

Whether you’re involved in the health care industry or not, you may have heard of the opioid addiction crisis in the United States. States like West Virginia, Mississippi, and Georgia, in particular, have seen record highs of drug overdose deaths related to opiates. And in 2017, the president declared a public health emergency because of the crisis.

But a report from the Government Accountability Office last year showed that the president’s declaration had done little to halt the crisis. So read on to learn what you should know about the state of the opioid public health emergency in 2019.

Basics of Opioid Addiction

Opioids are most commonly prescribed in the United States as pain medications. They work well to treat moderate to severe pain, especially after surgery, and so they gained popularity in the 1990s. They are also extremely addictive and can decrease in efficiency over the long term.

People who take opioids for a prolonged period of time develop tolerance of them. This means they have to take more of the medicine to get the same amount of pain relief. People also experience withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle aches, when they stop taking the drugs.

The scale of the Epidemic

It may seem overdramatic to refer to people being hooked on codeine as an epidemic. But more than 130 Americans die every day from opioid addiction-related problems. According to the CDC, more than 400,000 people have died of opioid overdose in the last twenty years.

Since 1999, the opioid addiction rate has increased by more than 600 percent. In 2017, more than 70,000 deaths occurred related to drug overdose; almost 70 percent of these were due to opioids. The same year, 2 million people misused prescription drugs for the first time, 81,000 people used heroin for the first time, and there were 28,000 deaths related to synthetic opioids.

What Are Opioids?

So far, we’ve mentioned prescription opioids, synthetic opioids, and heroin, all of which fall under the umbrella of opioids. So let’s step back and talk for a minute about what these drugs are.

Prescription opioids are, as the name suggests, medications prescribed to a patient by their doctor. These include hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin), oxycodone (brand name OxyContin and Percocet), and morphine. Although these medications can be used in legitimate medical applications, patients stand a strong chance of becoming addicted while taking this medication.

Synthetic opioids took off in the 1990s when doctors started prescribing them as an alternative to natural opioids. These substances are extremely potent and have a huge addictive potential. They include fentanyl, tramadol, and methadone.

Heroin is also in the opiate family, although, unlike the other two classes, it is never prescribed. Both heroin and morphine come from the poppy plant, as does opium. Because it comes from the same drug class as legal opiates, people who become addicted to prescription opiates may turn to heroin to get their fix when they run out of legal options.

How Did We Get Here?

There have been three waves of the opioid addiction epidemic since it first began around the 1990s. The first came with the rise in prescription opioid-related deaths. This has been steadily increasing since the 1990s.

The second wave of the epidemic hit with the rise in heroin overdose deaths around 2010. Recently, this number has hit a plateau of around five deaths per 100,000 members of the population.

But more recently, around 2013, we have seen the third wave of the epidemic cresting. In the last six years, the number of synthetic opioid-related deaths has skyrocketed by 1,000 percent.

Declaration of Opioid Public Health Emergency

Donald Trump declared a public health emergency due to the opioid addiction epidemic. The president said, “It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of this drug addiction.”

Unfortunately, the declaration seems to have come with little action. True, the public health emergency status has opened doors for two states to fast-track addiction treatment programs. But the president has used only three of the seventeen powers at his disposal under the emergency status, and none of them have done anything to increase funding for opioid addiction treatment programs.

Resources for the Addicted

If you or a loved one find yourself addicted to opiates, there are many resources at your disposal. The first step is to get to a recovery center during the detox process. This process can be painful and dangerous, so you should be under medical supervision to make it easier and keep you safe.

Once you are through the detox process, you’ll need to begin a treatment program to address your addiction. There are several options at your disposal, including inpatient or outpatient rehab, medication-assisted therapy, trauma-resolution therapy, and twelve-step programs. You can learn more about these options on the website for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Action You Can Take

Whether or not you are personally affected by the opioid crisis, you may want to take action to prevent it. One of the best things you can do is to be an advocate for your own healthcare and encourage your loved ones to do the same. If your doctor prescribes you opioids, ask if there are other options for pain control and, if not, establish a firm treatment plan that will help you prevent addiction.

Beyond advocating for your health care, one of the most important things we need to do is eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction and treatment. Talk openly with your family and friends about addiction, and tell them it is not a sign of immorality or weakness. Encourage anyone who may be showing symptoms of addiction to get help as soon as possible.

Get Help When You Need It

The opioid public health emergency is a crisis unlike one the United States has faced before. We aren’t facing an illness that we can vaccinate against or a gun violence problem that we just can’t seem to regulate. Instead, we are fighting drugs that, in many cases, our doctors have prescribed, and the most important thing we can do to stop it is alert, be assertive, and pass on the word.

If you or a loved one need help to deal with opioid addiction, visit the rest of our site at Coastal Detox. We can help you get through the detoxification process safely and with less pain. Learn more about our recovery management program and get back on the road to health today.

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Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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