What You Need to Know About the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is a prevalent societal issue that we must address immediately. Opioid usage has destroyed families all around the world. Moreover, thousands of people have died from using the drug. This article will provide an overview of what you need to know about the opioid crisis. Specifically, we will discuss the three waves of the opioid crisis in detail. Hopefully, you can gain a better understanding of how dangerous the problem is, and you can figure out how you can help. Opioid usage has reached epidemic levels around the world, and so we need to take the issue seriously.
The First Wave of the Opioid Crisis
To begin, it’s essential to identify what an opioid is. An opioid is a pain-relieving drug derived from the plant, opium. Opioids are essentially any drug that interface or react with opioid sensors in the human body. Morphine is perhaps the most famous example of an opioid.
The opioid crisis, as we know it today, began in the 1990s when oxycodone came onto the scene. For a long time, oxycodone was seen as the new miracle drug, and as such, doctors prescribed it for all sorts of ailments. Further, pharmaceutical companies assured doctors there would be minimal side effects to oxycodone usage. So as oxycodone prescriptions became more prevalent, pharmaceutical companies started making tons of money. Anyone living during the 1990s probably remembers armed guards camped out in hospitals and people walking in and out of healthcare facilities with briefcases of money. Eventually, however, the government cracked down on oxycodone/opioid prescriptions, and this initiated the second wave of the opioid crisis.
The Second Wave of the Opioid Crisis
The second wave of the opioid crisis began in the late 2000s, specifically around 2010. By the time the government put restrictions on opioid prescriptions, many people had already become addicted to these drugs. So, because they could no longer get their prescriptions from their physicians, they turned to the streets. More and more people began using heroin as another form of pain relief. In fact, the number of heroin-related overdoses increased by 286% between 2002 and 2013. Moreover, it’s important to note that 80% of heroin users admitted that their addiction began with prescription opioids. Although they didn’t intend to, doctors and pharmaceutical companies created an epidemic that only got worse as time went on.
The Third Wave of the Opioid Crisis
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was approved for use in the United States in 1968. When taken correctly, the drug helps individuals with post-surgical pain, palliative care, or end of life pain. It’s vital to note that fentanyl is 50 times more potent than morphine, and you can typically find it in the form of a transdermal patch, lozenge, or lollipop. Doctors distributed the medicine using these methods because they wanted the dosage to release slowly over time. Fentanyl is incredibly potent; thus, it could be lethal to administer it in a pill format. But when distributed through a lollipop or patch, the release time for fentanyl becomes much slower.
Although they may have had good intentions, most people are quick to blame pharmaceutical companies for increased fentanyl usage. Some critics say that these companies created a monster when they put fentanyl on the scene. Yet, it’s essential to note that pharmaceutical companies are always looking for the most effective and least addictive drug to put on the market. Again, when handled properly, fentanyl can be extremely useful. However, people began to mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, or abuse it all together—this is when the third wave of the opioid crisis began.
In 2013, there was a spike in synthetic opioid usage and opioid-related deaths. During this time, cartels and clandestine laboratories in China and Mexico realized they could make and sell fentanyl for much cheaper than they could other drugs. Fentanyl production became especially prevalent in China, as many pharmaceutical companies were building clandestine laboratories here to manufacture fentanyl to sell in the United States. Some sales even occurred through the internet. Essentially, that’s how the crisis became so widespread. Since fentanyl was so easily accessible and cheap, more and more people began to use it.
A primary reason as to why fentanyl is so popular is the potency to cost ratio. Drug dealers in the United States and abroad have capitalized on this sentiment. Both heroin and fentanyl are easy to smuggle into the United States. However, fentanyl contains 30-50% more doses. To put this into perspective, a drug dealer can make a profit of $80,000 from selling one kilogram of heroin. Conversely, a drug dealer can make almost $2 million selling the same amount of fentanyl.
Where Are We Now?
The opioid crisis is still prevalent in the United States today. A newer issue that has come to the surface is that of “hot spots.” More and more drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs they’re trying to sell. This mixing creates dangerous “hot spots” that are leading to more deaths. A “hot spot” essentially means that one drug could have a reaction rate of zero percent, while the other has a reaction rate of 100%. Essentially, what’s happening is that the second drug isn’t evenly spreading with the first drug, and the reaction rate becomes incredibly hazardous. The motivations behind this mixing are still unclear.
Fentanyl is still a prevalent issue worldwide, as well. In 2019, the Deputy Director of the office of China National Narcotics Control Commission said that the country was going to crack down on illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Although there have been some legal consequences to individuals, progress has been very slow. Further, manufacturing has become increasingly popular in underground facilities in Mexico.
This guide has explained, in detail, what you need to know about the opioid crisis. Pharmaceutical companies and doctors overprescribed opioids, and when people no longer had access to those medications, they turned to drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Here at Teststock, we want to do our part to help those suffering. That’s why we offer top-of-the-line drug testing equipment to a variety of industries, such as rehab centers and government agencies.