Opioid epidemic shatters drug stereotypes

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The amount of Americans that have to google the word “opioid” to find out what exactly this class of drugs includes is decreasing as the addiction epidemic across the U.S. rapidly filters into more neighborhoods, schools and towns. As reported by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid-related overdoses in 2016 was 5 times higher than in 1999. As this number continues to grow, the CDC estimates that about 115 Americans die of an opioid overdose every single day. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 24.6 million and 36 million people worldwide are opioid users. As the numbers continue to morph into personal stories of neighbors, classmates, friends and family who have fallen into opioid usage, NGOs and government officials alike are panicking to find any stable solution.

To best understand the crisis, there must first be an establishment of what an opioid is and how it is used. An opioid is classified as a substance that acts on the nervous system to produce feelings of euphoria and reduce pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic drugs such as Fentanyl, and pain relievers available by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and morphine. Many of these drugs are given out in hefty supply following minor surgeries, such as wisdom teeth removal.

The epidemic has stopped at no demographic as it continues to find its way into the lives of all Americans. In order to seek preventative measures, many groups, such as the American Addiction Center, are publishing information to help identify the signs and symptoms of opioid usage. People can consume opioids by either pill consumption, injection, smoking, or snorting and therefore often use basic kitchen materials to aid in the process. Paraphernalia associated with usage can often be spoons, cotton balls, tie-offs, lighters, candles, aluminum foil and straws. If an excess of any of these supplies goes missing, it is vital to question those around to ensure the kitchen items are not contributing to one of the deadliest drug crises in American history.

Many news groups ,including National Public Radio, 60 Minutes, The Washington Post and The New York Times, have linked the nationwide epidemic to manipulation and corruption of “Big Pharma.” They argue that pharmaceutical companies that distribute opioids such as Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergen, oversell and underprice medication and encourage the epidemic to further.

In May, the state of Ohio sued the five previously mentioned companies for “fueling the opioid epidemic,” an action that has since resulted in the attorney generals of 41 U.S. states launching a full-fledged investigation that will demand information and documents from the manufacture’s and distributors of prescription opioid drugs. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York opened the investigation in September when he released a statement saying: “We’re committed to getting to the bottom of a broken system that has fueled the epidemic and taken far too many lives.”

Although this coalition will hopefully lead to progress within the distribution of opioids, it does little to aid the increasing number of Americans already addicted. For many, the pain of withdrawal keeps them on the drugs.

According to American Addiction Center, withdrawal is a very subjective response, and symptoms often begin immediately after drug use has stopped, continuing with another round of symptoms that occur around 72 hours after drug use has stopped, known as the “late withdrawal symptoms.” Many people recovering from opioid addiction experience agitation, anxiety, hypertension, excessive sweating and yawning, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, goosebumps, stomach cramps and depression.

Sophia Vander Kooy ('20) is a political science and international studies major with an unofficial passion for taking creative writing classes. She was the Production Manager at the Anchor during the spring semester of 2020, and previously served as the Editor-in-Chief. She is also a member of the Women's Track and Cross Country teams at Hope, the STEP Community Outreach Student Director and the Co-President of Hope Yoga. Sophia loves writing, being outside, cooking, running and connecting with all kinds of people. She has found the space to be herself at The Anchor and knows that she is not alone in that.

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