The numbers 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 the overdose deaths. Towns that have never been affected by these issues before are now seeing high rates of opiate abuse. This epidemic is leaving many law enforcement agencies and local government officials scrambling for help and answers to solve the drug problem plaguing the country.
In the United States, about 45 people a day die directly related to overdoses from opioids. For every death, over 30 people are admitted to hospitals for opiate related abuse. Opioids have made there way into every town across the United States leaving no town untouched by this horrible problem.
Hydrocodone prescription painkillers are now the number one prescribed medication in the United States. We have become a pain pill popping nation. Prescription pills are over-prescribed at alarming rates and the ability to gauge pain has left healthcare professionals with their hands tied behind their backs. 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 as their job is to make their patients as comfortable as possible.
With websites such as WebMD, and other medical based websites, it's easy for addicts to read about conditions that may warrant the use of opiates. They can then tell their doctor about a specific condition they have, hoping to get more painkillers prescribed by their doctor. Since pain can not be measured by doctors, it's hard to tell if the patient is really in pain or pretending to be in pain to get more pills. There is no "pain" meter that a doctor can use to see if a patient is really telling the truth.
The FDA has taken steps to try and curb the abuse linked with prescription opioids by changing the way they are prescribed. Most narcotic painkillers were once used for moderate to severe pain. This threshold of pain is vast and can fit 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 may be shortened to 14 days or even 10 days. The FDA believes that the longer a prescription is written for, the greater the chance of addiction and abuse.
Small towns have also seen crime skyrocket with a direct connection to the opiate epidemic. Many young teens begin abusing medications found in their own parents medicine cabinets. After enjoying the euphoria from painkillers they turn to the black market to buy more pills when they run out. Tolerance builds quickly with opiates and a pill or two here and there soon leads to multiple pills at a time. The problem is that opiate addiction gets expensive quickly. When the addict needs more pills to get their "euphoric" feeling and they can no longer afford their addiction, they begin to commit petty thefts which affects entire communities.
After awhile, even with the stealing, they are unable to afford the pain pills and choose to go with the cheaper alternative, heroin. In many towns in the United States, heroin is being sold for as little as $5 a bag, which is enough to get an opiate addict high. The prices of heroin are at the lowest in decades and the potency of the heroin has also increased. The problem is that heroin users are playing a game of Russian Roulette every time they get high. Every bag of heroin is different as dealers "cut" or mix in other ingredients to make the heroin last longer and for the dealers to make more money.
Small communities need to hold public forums and educate their community on the dangers of opioids and the heroin epidemic affecting every town in the U.S. 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 attention.