The current opioid epidemic is believed to have started in 1991. During this time, officials began to notice a drastic increase in the number of prescriptions written for the use of opioids as painkillers. Doctors were falsely informed that the risk of addiction to these drugs was low. Their trust in a product they knew little caused significant harm to patients. People became addicted rather quickly and developed drug-seeking behaviors.

The doctors were prescribing these medications regularly, and pharmaceutical companies were also promoting their use. Previously, these drugs were reserved for patients with cancer. By 1999, most of the people using these prescription medications were non-cancer patients. It’s believed that 86 percent were suffering from chronic pain conditions. Areas where these drugs were accessible became the first regions to suffer from opiate abuse. Users were from all age brackets and socioeconomic groups.

In 2010, there was an increase in deaths from abusing heroin. Awareness of opiates dependency caused a decreased in prescriptions. When opiates became harder to obtain, people turned to heroin to find that familiar high. Shockingly enough, a study showed that more than heroin users started with prescription opiate addiction.

Due to the increased costs and difficulty in obtaining opiates and heroin, a synthetic drug was released to the market in 2013. Fentanyl and other related drugs are blamed for over 20,000 deaths, and it’s linked to contaminate drug abuse. Keep in mind that there is a difference between medical and manufactured fentanyl.

The problem is so out of control that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention felt it necessary to step in and put stringent monitoring practices in place. Opiates should be reserved for cancer patients, those who need chronic pain treatments, and end-of-life care only. Before prescribing these medications, an assessment should be conducted, and regular ongoing evaluations are essential.

The CDC believes that both pharmaceutical companies and those prescribing these medications must be held accountable. A US Senate Committee also got involved and found that there are many financial ties between the manufacturers of these drugs and the medical community as well as many professional cultures.

With tighter guidelines in place, those suffering from painful conditions will continue to seek relief, even if it’s on the streets. The epidemic continues to grow, and it’s destroying cities across America. Drug addiction is no respecter of persons; it affects both young and old, and rich and poor.