The effect of opioids on the body is associated with analgesic and sedative effects, depression of the respiratory and cough centers, and weakening intestinal motility. This narcotic is widely used in medicine as a powerful painkiller, so-called opioid analgesics. The ability to induce euphoria leads to the recreational use of opioids, leading to dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
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Since the mid-1970s, American doctors have faced an increasing number of patient complaints of chronic pain. The response of medicine and pharmaceuticals has been opioid-based prescription pain relievers, which in most cases, are highly addictive. Oxycodone was a synthetic opioid that hit the American market in the mid-1990s (Gladden et al., 2016). According to the drug manufacturers, its effect lasts almost twelve hours, that is, a patient with chronic pain needs to take a pill in the morning and evening to feel better. These days, opioids are easy to get from a medical prescription of a medical practitioner. Usually, insurance companies cover these costs; in 2015, nearly 250 million drug orders were issued in the United States – more per capita than in other countries (Rudd et al., 2016). As a result, opioids have become a robust billion industry.
Dozens of thousands of U.S. citizens die from overdoses every year. According to The New York Times estimates, in 2016, from 59 to 65 thousand people became victims of overdosage; that’s more than the number of people killed in car accidents annually (Katz, 2017). Roughly two-thirds of all overkills are attributed to heroin and other opioids (Katz, 2017). The number of fatalities has grown steadily since the early 1990s, with the number of deaths from hard drugs increasing rapidly in the past ten years. The Presidential Commission also highlights the problem of over-prescribing opioids, pointing to the often inadequate training of medical staff in pain management, which forces them to turn to opioids. Meanwhile, there is another issue: alternative pain treatments may be more expensive, and insurance companies may refuse to cover them.
The U.S. state of Virginia has declared a health emergency due to an increase in drug overdose deaths. It was announced due to the rise in the number of those who were poisoned with opioids. According to the Virginia Department of Health, the data shows that in 2018 an average of three Virginians died of an opioid OD daily (Virginia Department of Health). There is a downward trend in the number of emergency department visits. However, the problem remains central for authorities and populations as the numbers are still high. In 2019 the acute care was provided to approximately 6000 people compared, while in 2017, the number counted 7321. Moreover, the death rates fell from 1059 deaths in 2018 to 650 in 2019 (Virginia Department of Health). The death rates table provided by the Virginia Department of Health determines the amount of mortality of the Virginia population.
Concerning the relationship between demographic factors such as race, gender, education, healthcare availability for opioid addiction, and opioid-related deaths among adults living in Virginia, people over 25 tend to die due to overdose. For instance, in 2018, there were 225 Male deaths in the 25 – 34 age category, for a death rate of 37.3 per 100,000 residents, while the number of women deaths was 79 in the 25 – 34 age category, for a death rate of 13.5 per 100,000 residents (Virginia Department of Health). Opioid overdose mortality is a primary health issue among Non-Hispanic black and Non-Hispanic white persons, while it does not concern the citizens of Hispanic origins. The survey has shown that cocaine-related overkills in NHB persons are accompanied by heroin- and prescription opioid-related deaths in NHW women and men (Shiels et al., 2018). In the past few years, as the press and drug treatment have been able to draw attention to the opioid addiction epidemic, fewer addictive painkillers have been prescribed in the United States; however, overdose deaths are still growing.
Besides, there is a statistically significant correlation between healthcare availability and opioid-related deaths among adults living in Virginia. This narcotic is widespread in rural areas, as poor people cannot afford some expensive painkillers or other sedative medicines. It happens in US disadvantaged regions; opioid-based painkillers are referred to as “country heroin” due to their popularity in the outlying areas (Rigg et al., 2018). In turn, the situation on the market for illegal substances has also seriously transformed; criminals have changed the tactics of drug smuggling in recent years, decentralizing distribution networks and directing supplies to suburbs and rural areas where drugs have never been available.
There are several options for dealing with this problem. Local health departments are advised to inform the population about the sharp increase in overdoses. Therefore with appropriate police permission, they can distribute antidotes for drug overdoses, such as drug naloxone in local communities and families where people are susceptible to overdoses. The authorities do not provide proper healthcare to people coping with drug addiction. The reason for this is the lack of medicines, in some states people do not have access to such assistance due to its very high cost, or they have to stand in lines for several weeks or months. The danger of the current situation lies in the fact that healthy people often become drug addicts, suffering from doctors’ incompetence or transactions of medical institutions with manufacturers of specific drugs of the opioid group.
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Gladden, R., Martinez, P., & Seth, P. (2016). Fentanyl law enforcement submissions and increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths — 27 States, 2013–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(33), 837-843.
Katz, J. (2017). Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever. The New York Times. Web.
Overdose deaths. Virginia Department of Health (n.d.) 2020, Web.
Rigg, K. K., Monnat, S. M., & Chavez, M. N. (2018). Opioid-related mortality in rural America: geographic heterogeneity and intervention strategies. International Journal of Drug Policy, 57, 119-129.
Rudd, R., Seth, P., David, F., & Scholl, L. (2016). Increases in drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths — United States, 2010–2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(51), 1445-1452.
Shiels, M. S., Freedman, N. D., Thomas, D., & Berrington de Gonzalez, A. (2018). Trends in US drug overdose deaths in non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white persons, 2000–2015. Annals of internal medicine, 168(6), 453-455.