Drug abuse in the U.S is has reached alarming levels in the U.S with an average of 115 people dying every day due to opioid overdose. This has raised concerns, especially from the government with the situation being deemed a national crisis.

Part of the reason why so many people are dying is due to the ease of availability of opioids which include illegal hard drugs such as heroin, prescription drugs, and even synthetic opioids. The opioid crisis has been labeled a national crisis not only because of the high number of deaths that it has been causing but also because it traverses public health, economic and social welfare.

The economic burden caused by the misuse of prescription opioids alone in the U.S is roughly $78.5 billion annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This massive amount includes the costs of criminal justice, addiction treatment, loss of productivity and the cost of healthcare.

Why are opioids so dangerous?

Opioids affect the area of the brain that controls emotions and pain through a hormone called dopamine. This hormone is normally released for pain relief or when an individual feels good about something. However, Opioids trigger the release of this hormone and thus making the consumer feel good. However, those consuming these drugs start depending on them and this leads to addiction.

It is believed that roughly 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids. These people either use hard drugs sold on the street or prescription drugs. So how did things get this bad? Well, it started back in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies sold their opioid products under the notion that prescription opioid pain medicines would not cause addiction. This caused a surge in the rate at which such medicines were be being prescribed which eventually led to widespread abuse. The number of opioid overdoses began to rise as patients began to become addicted.

How is the situation being handled?

Local governments in different states have identified the issue and have reacted through programs aimed at overcoming the problem. The Federal government has also been working on ways to dealing with the crisis. U.S President Donald Trump’s administration launched an initiative that aims to reduce the demand and supply of opioids and thus stopping opioid abuse. In one of his statements, Trump stated that the government will work towards strengthening the communities and families that are affected by the opioid crisis.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been using various approaches to tackle the matter. These approaches include promoting the use of anti-overdose drugs, promoting better health surveillance to facilitate a better understanding of the opioid epidemic, supporting research on pain and addiction. They have also been working towards providing more access to recovery services and treatment.

Meanwhile, there have also been claims that the legalization of marijuana could help solve the opioid crisis. According to research, there are fewer opioid prescriptions in states where marijuana has been legalized. Marijuana has been known to be quite effective in dealing with chronic pain and as such, it might be a viable solution to substitute dangerous opioids.