The number of opiate overdoses in small communities around the country are on the rise. Heroin and prescription opioid-based painkillers are to blame for the overwhelming majority of these overdoses. Areas that have never been affected by these issues before are seeing first hand the devastation they cause. It is leaving many law enforcement and local government officials scrambling for help and answers to the problem.
In the United States, about 45 people a day and over 16,600 people a year die from overdoses caused by opioids. For every death, 30 people are admitted to hospitals for either overdose or abuse. Opioids have made there way into every town in the United States. No town has been left untouched.
Prescription painkillers with the active ingredient of hydrocodone is the number one prescribed medication in the United States. We have become an opioid induced country. Prescription pills are over-prescribed at alarming rates and the ability to gauge pain has left healthcare professionals with their hands tied. How do you tell if a patient has enough pain to warrant a narcotic painkiller? With the amount of abuse going on, it is unfair to blame all doctors for the over-prescribing of these medications.
The FDA has taken steps to curb the abuse linked with prescription opioids. Most narcotic painkillers were used for moderate to severe pain. This threshold of pain is wide and fits many ailments. The FDA has looked into only providing narcotic painkillers to patients who are in the severe pain threshold. They also want to shorten the length that each prescription is written for. The 30 day supply of medication will be shortened to 14 days or 10 days. They believe this will have an affect on abuse that ultimately leads to addiction and overdose.
Small towns have seen crime skyrocket where crime was once never really an issue. This is directly related to the opioid epidemic. Many young teens begin abusing medications found in their own parent's medicine cabinets. Before they know it, what was once a "fun time" quickly leads to an addiction they have trouble affording. They begin to commit petty thefts and it affects the communities as a whole. After awhile, even with the stealing, they are unable to afford the pain pills and choose to go with the painkillers cheaper cousin, heroin. In many towns in the United States, heroin is being sold for as low as $5 a bag. These prices are the lowest seen in decades and the potency of the heroin is high. Heroin users are playing with their life every time they get high. Never knowing what the heroin is cut (or mixed with) or what the potency difference is between each bag can easily lead to a deadly overdose.
Small communities need to hold public forums and educate their citizens on the dangers of opioids and heroin. The more people who are aware of how dangerous of an issue this is, the more lives that will be saved or deterred from ever being affected. If you or someone you know is addicted to opiates please seek professional medical help.