Recently, the New York Times gained much attention when they published a shocking study measuring the death toll from drug overdoses. In the study, it is estimated that upwards of 60,000 people died in 2016 due to illicit drug use, which would be a record and the largest recorded jump in history. In 2015, around 52,000 people died, so that means in one year the death toll rose at least a whopping 19%. In regards to preventable deaths, car accidents were by far the leading cause of death in America. Now, a new monster has taken a firm grip on the nation: Heroin.
Believe it or not, in 2016 alone, the number of drug overdose deaths surpassed the number of Americans killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War. To say that is an alarming statistic would be an understatement. In fact, drugs are now the largest public health crisis this country has ever seen, with fatalities even surpassing the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Though shocking and tragic, those who are familiar with the influx of opioid prescriptions over the past two decades probably are not surprised that it is resulting in a new leading cause of death.
Over the past several years, many states have begun to take action to limit the number of opioid prescriptions. Changes in drug policy, as well as pain management, were first triggered by increases in crime, addiction treatment admissions, and scientific studies that proved the high risk of dependence on prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, policy reform combined with prescriptions being revoked only exacerbated the problem, which inevitably caused a new leading cause of death. As patients had their opioids taken away, many were already dependent on the drugs and began searching desperately for relief.
What Happens When Someone Loses Their Prescription?
The most tragic reality of this epidemic is that many of the victims had no intention of becoming a drug addict nor had any obvious reason to. For many victims, their fate started with a simple doctor’s visit and ended with heroin or pills bought on the street. Once looking to relieve pain caused by something like a broken arm or a back injury, many found themselves unable to stop or limit the consumption of pain medications prescribed by their doctors.
This public health crisis and new leading cause of death were not caused by people trying to avoid their responsibilities; it was caused by the sheer power of opioids, which are now known to be the most addictive substances on the planet. Mothers, fathers, aunt and uncles, grandparents, teens, executives, lawyers, and even doctors have all fallen victim to opioid addiction. Unlike some substances, opioids do not discriminate. Once a person develops a physical dependency and has their drugs deprived, they are likely to go to any length to relieve their withdrawal symptoms.
As more and more people lost their access to prescription drugs, the demand for opioids skyrocketed. This naturally triggered the black market to replace doctors, which resulted in a new opioid provider that had no morals, no government oversight, and no rules what so ever. So, it makes sense that a new booming illegal drug trade is resulting in a new leading cause of death.
Why Is Heroin Suddenly Killing So Many People?
Heroin use has fluctuated over time. Its popularity has had highs and lows, though, it has always been available in the United States since its introduction in the 1800s. In fact, this is not our first opioid crisis by any means. By the time the United States criminalized heroin in 1920, it had already gained massive popularity with hundreds of thousands using the drug, which quickly became popular in the illegal drug market. Even though this country has seen very large numbers of heroin users, the percentage of those dying as a result has never been this high. Even when heroin use peaked in the past, it never came close to becoming a leading cause of death. So what changed?
A huge factor that has caused this epidemic to be so deadly is the invention and boom of the internet. Now more than ever people have access to anything they want. People are connected in real-time across the globe and are able to buy, sell, or spread new drug formulations with no regulation. Governments are having extreme difficulty trying to track down these cyber drug dealers due to encrypted messages, crypto-currency (an anonymous way to transfer funds), and complex anonymous servers that hide the dealer’s location. This is important because most people falling victim to this new leading cause of death have actually been killed by a deadly additive being manufactured in foreign countries; not heroin itself.
Fentanyl: Poisoning Heroin and Even Counterfeit Pills
The reason heroin is killing so many people and becoming the leading cause of death among young people is because, in today’s world, much of the “heroin” actually lacks real heroin. The deadly mixtures being sold on the street often contain a fentanyl analog drug or some other designer drug. These additives are intended to provide an extremely cheap alternative to heroin. These drugs can even be 10,000 times stronger than morphine and doses the size of grains of salt can be enough to kill one or more people. Some of these drugs were even developed to tranquilize elephants.
Heroin is not the only target either. Drug dealers are taking notice of the fact that some people prefer to purchase pills opposed to heroin thinking that it is a safer alternative. Many people assume that a pill cannot be laced with fentanyl or other mysterious drugs. Unfortunately, it has become a popular trend for dealers to produce their own counterfeit pills that completely resemble real prescription drugs. This causes users to unexpectedly overdose and, all too commonly, die as a result. If we want to eliminate this leading cause of death, the country should heavily invest in addiction research, treatment, and prevention. Treatment is the only proven way to fight addiction successfully.
Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own personal path in recovery. You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.