The term opioid describes natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates, and new psychoactive substances, NPS that have similar health effects as opioids. These products are used in medical practices due to their ability to relieve agony. Opioids activate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters are also referred to as endorphins and restore a powerful and pleasurable sense of well-being when taken in the event of agony (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019). Such feelings vanish once the dose wears off, and this makes an individual want them back. Such effects of opioids have led to their increased use non-medically leading to what health officers have referred to as an opioid crisis (UNODC, 2019). The paper seeks to give a brief description of the status of this crisis citing the most affected regions and the factors to the rise of this emergency.
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The increased non-medical use of opiates and NPS is of major concern worldwide as it poses significant issues to public health and law-enforcing authorities. It is associated with addiction, disorders such as neonatal abstinence and death. The abuse of opioids and overdose deaths in the United States is a pandemic at present. In 2016, the United States recorded more than 60,000 thousand deaths caused by the overdose of opioids (UNODC, 2019). According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS (2020), the United States recorded more than 130 deaths daily in 2018 resulting from the use of opioids. Such statistics made President Trump declare “the opioid crisis a public health emergency” in 2017 (CMS, 2020).
Some populations are more vulnerable to opioid misuse compared to others. Some of these people include pregnant women, neonates and individuals who inject drugs (National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017). People involved with the system of criminal justice are also at risk. For instance, NASEM (2017) points out that the number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome in 2015 in the country was five times higher 2015 than the number recorded in 2012. Such an increase was attributed to the increased use and misuse of opioids among expectant women.
The opioid epidemic in the States varies geographically, majorly due to the varied use of these drugs from one state to the other. Research by Martin et al. (2016) revealed a variation in the use of opioids, as painkiller prescriptions per person were higher in some states than in others. For instance, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina prescribed between 96 and 143 while California, Colorado and Illinois recommended 52 to 71 painkillers for a group of 100 people (Martin et al., 2016). Such differences in opioid use have led to variation in the recorded opioid overdose and death-related cases in different states.
The death rate due to opioid overdose in West Virginia and Ohio ranged between 29.6 and 42.4 in 2018 for a population of 100,000 people (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020). In the same year, the death rate in California and Colorado was between 5.5 and 9.5. Anaheim City in California is considered the most populated in the county. According to Frankie (2019), prescription opioids are the most abused substances in this city. Between 2011 and 2015, about 782 Anaheim residents were admitted to hospitals following opioid-related overdoses. Within this period, the city recorded 123 deaths resulting from opioid abuse (Frankie, 2019). The rise of opioid overdose in Anaheim is majorly attributed to the high population in the city.
Factors such as high profitability, easiness of concealing and trafficking, legislative gaps, and reduced stigmatization of users have contributed significantly to the increasing opioid crisis in the United States. Despite the medical importance of opioids, their misuse is harming the public health and welfare of Americans. It calls for coordinated multidisciplinary responses to address public health and safety concerning opioid use. There is a need to reduce the demand and supply of these substances to the public but promote their access and availability for medication and scientific study.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2020). Ongoing emergencies. Web.
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Frankie. (2019). The landscape of drug abuse in Anaheim. Resurgence. Web.
Martin, L., Laderman, M., Hyatt, J., & Krueger, J. (2016). Addressing the opioid crisis in the United States (pp. 4-12). Cambridge. Web.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Pain management and the opioid epidemic: balancing societal and individual benefits and risks of prescription opioid use. The National Academies.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Opioid summaries by state. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2019). Understanding the global opioid crisis (pp. 2-12). Web.