Snap. Imagine plopping onto your uncomfortable and unkempt bed, having just been recently diagnosed with the newest variant of the flu spreading amongst the nation like a California wildfire. There are bunches of white tissue sheets spread all over or sickly-green blobs blown onto a used t-shirt. You can't see it but you can feel your eyes reddened and widened despite your tender body wanting to collapse and drift into the netherworld. With your aching and trembling hands, you reach for the expensive and unopened bottle of pills that your tired and overwhelmed doctor prescribed to treat and hopefully your pain and suffering. Only for a few hours though in tiny fine print at the bottom of the bottle. Snap. Now come back to reality. Welcome to the real world where prescription drugs or opioids killed two-thirds of the 63,632 Americans who died from a drug overdose in 2016. And from 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's CDC Newsroom. These recent and daunting statistics shed light on how large prescription drug and/or opioids fatalities contribute to the United State's overall cause of deaths. Though in America either because of lack of information or obscured media outlets through social media/cable television, heart disease, cancer, gun violence, car accidents were the top causations for the death of its citizens. I want to explore the myths and truths of how major the opioid crisis is in modern day America.
The word “prescription drug” is a noun that is defined as a drug that can be obtained only by means of a physician's prescription given by Merriam Webster's online dictionary database. Opioids are commonly prescribed because of their effective pain-relieving properties by acting on the brain and body by attaching to specific proteins known as opioid receptors. With the attachment of the prescription drug to the receptor, it blocks the perception of pain, as written by Pamela Korsmeyer and Henry R. Kranzler in “Prescription Drug Abuse” in the Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior. Patients or users who could no longer afford the expensive medication that was prescribed to alleviate their pain either quit “cold turkey” and had to experience the severe effects of withdrawal and pain or turned to injecting cheap heroin for the same “euphoria” or high. The opioid crisis is destroying the lives of thousands of people first hand and the countless thousands more through the eye's of the user's loved ones. Overdoses from prescription drug or opioids can happen in the most normal and public places like the park and the parking lot of a shopping area.
In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency to address the opioid crisis as a national epidemic. Despite the crisis being born over 20 years ago from the famously popular opioid brand named OxyContin, it is now under the country's spotlight with the command from the Trump administration. From Katie Miller's interactive visual story article “OxyContin and our opioid crisis: how misleading marketing got America addicted” published on the Washington Post, OxyContin's owners and researchers knew that their product had addictive tendencies and was not meant to treat patients that were diagnosed with major aches or arthritis. It was and should have only been restricted to suffering cancer patients and and the terminally ill, but was instead marketed to the consumers (doctors and patients alike) as safe and well functioning. From Lindsey Bever's article “The man who made billions of dollars from OxyContin is pushing a drug to wean addicts off opioids” published on The Washington Post, the pharmaceutical colossus Purdue Pharma just now recently patented a product that would be used to help opioid addicts. They willingly caused the problem in hopes of profit that resulted in billions of dollars over the course of 20 plus years. Bevers argues that they are now creating the solution in hopes of profit that will have the same result. But I wonder what happened to the ethics and morality of the country? Was that not why the Food and Drug Administration created to protect and educate it's consumers and citizens?
Over 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses. A reported 11.4 million people misused their prescription. A confirmed total of 42,248 people died from overdosing in opioids while 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder according to the compiled 2016 and 2017 year survey data from HHS. Yes, these statistics provide insight on how prescription drugs negatively impact the opioid crisis. But as I was researching the side that was seemingly filled with raw emotion and disdain, I wanted to inquire from the side that is seemingly saying “your feelings are not valid through science.” From Mark Edmund Rose's article “Are Prescription Opioids Driving the Opioid Crisis? Assumptions vs Facts” published in the Pain Medicine, he writes that sharp increases in opioid prescriptions associated with overdose deaths brought the crisis to light. Rose argued that the facts shown to the public through mass media is not examined closely enough to the point where if they actually did, the people would actually see a decrease in opioid overdose fatalities. The miscommunication and misinformation of the topic brings the public to grow increasingly wary of the crisis when the numbers are showing less and less overdoses gradually over the years. But
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