Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Epidemic

In the late 1990s in the United States, there was a prompt growth in the usage of non-prescribed and prescribed opioid drugs. This was considered the opioid crisis or opioid epidemic. Throughout the 1st two decades of the 2000s, this crisis continued in the country.

Opioids are types of drugs and robust painkillers such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine. In the U.S., thousands of individuals are being catered to every day in hospitals due to the wrong usage of opioids.

Despite their high risk of overdose and addiction, the availability and potency of these painkillers have made them popular as recreational drugs and medicines used for formal treatments.

However, death at times and respiratory failure leading to respiratory depression may result due to the tranquilizing effects of these painkillers.

Opioid Epidemic

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States, epidemic levels have been reached by deaths resulting from the overdose of these prescribed painkillers.

One of the leading causes of death in the U.S. is due to overdoses of drugs, out of which 2/3rd are due to abuse of opioids. It has appeared as a severe national crisis affecting the economic and social welfare and public health.

It has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the entire economic burden of misusage of prescribed opioids has reached 78.5 billion dollars annually, involving criminal justice involvement, addiction treatment, lost productivity and healthcare costs.

In the late 1990s, the medical community was reassured by the pharmaceutical organizations that no such addiction in patients would take place related to these prescribed opioid painkillers.

This eventually leads to prescription at increased rates by the healthcare providers, and misusage and widespread diversion of these painkillers took place.

The rates of overdose substantially increased. From the year 1999 to 2008, there was a substantial increase in the treatment involving substance abuse, sales and high rates of death led by overdose due to these opioid painkillers.


By 2015, deaths resulted due to guns and car accidents were surpassed by the annual deaths led by overdose and abuse of heroin (a type of opioid).

As a result of the overdose of opioids, including fentanyl, which is manufactured illegally, heroin, and other prescribed painkillers, around thirty-three thousand Americans died in 2015. In the same year, around two million people within the country suffered from disorders related to these prescribed painkillers.


Later, in 2016, around half of the deaths reported were due to the overdose of these prescribed painkillers. For the 2nd consecutive year, there was a substantial decrease in the overall life expectancy of the citizens of the U.S. due to the opioid epidemic.

In comparison to 2015, there was an increase of twenty-one percent in deaths resulting from the overdose in 2016. However, in 1999 the figure was quite less, i.e., four thousand, and in 2010 it was sixteen thousand.

However, it was estimated by public health experts that over the next ten years, the opioid epidemic can lead to the deaths of people over five hundred thousand.

2016 – 2017

In total, the opioid epidemic represents an increase in its usage in sixteen larger cities by fifty-four percent. From July 2016 to September 2017, there was an increase of seventy percent in overdoses of opioids in the Midwestern region.

In forty-five states and fifty-two areas, thirty percent increased from July 2016 to September 2017. Heroin was adopted by around four to six percent of individuals who were making misuse of prescribed opioids.

An opioid usage disorder is developed by around eight to twelve percent of people. Around twenty-one to twenty-nine percent of individuals started misusing the opioids that were prescribed to them for lessening their chronic pain.