The opioid crisis is affecting large parts of the world at the moment, particularly in the USA. It’s become hugely problematic and is killing thousands of people by the day. The levels it’s hit are vast and in the country there’s perhaps not a single person that now doesn’t know someone that’s been affected.
Unfortunately, not enough is being done to aid people in the crisis, whether that be through preventative methods or helping with the cost of rehab, particularly among poorer demographics where it can often feel like there’s no escape.
However, further awareness also needs to be raised, and to do that we need to talk about the crisis more. So, here are five things you really should know about the state of play in the current opioid crisis…
Alarming Increase in Opioid-Related Deaths
One of the most harrowing aspects is the huge increase in opioid related deaths. Many countries are failing to slow the numbers down and the likes of heroin and fentanyl abuse continues to grow. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Office for National Statistics reported a concerning surge in drug-related deaths, with opioids playing a significant role.
The increasing death toll underscores the urgent need for in-depth strategies to address the root causes of opioid addiction and improve access to treatment and support.
Escalating Prescription Opioid Misuse
Where everything becomes a little messy is with prescription opioids. In the USA especially, the mismarketing of painkillers has led to thousands upon thousands of people becoming addicted. Purdue Pharma is the biggest example of this, going bankrupt in 2019 to a sea of lawsuits against them.
There are some excellent documentaries and dramatisations of such scandals at the moment, including Dope and the recent Emily Blunt movie, Pain Hustlers.
Impact on Mental Health and Socioeconomic Disparities
As well as soaring addiction rates, the opioid crisis is also having a huge impact on mental health, especially with the socioeconomic disparities that are clear to see. Alongside struggling with addiction, people are often facing poverty, which is creating a vicious cycle that is making recovery and treatment even more difficult.
Strain on Healthcare Systems
The opioid epidemic is putting a huge strain on healthcare systems, particularly emergency services and addiction treatment facilities. Overwhelmed emergency rooms are dealing with a surge in opioid-related admissions, stretching resources thin and diverting attention from other critical medical needs. The demand for addiction treatment outpaces the available resources, leading to long waiting lists and insufficient support for those seeking recovery.
This strain on healthcare systems not only compromises the quality of care but also affects the ability to implement timely interventions. Today, there is an urgent need for increased funding, more treatment options, and improved coordination between healthcare providers and support services to ensure that the current crisis calms and people can start to get their lives back on track.
Rising Tide of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
A worrying consequence of the opioid crisis is also the rising number of health challenges babies are facing as a result of mothers who have misused opioids during their pregancy. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, NAS, has become a large problem and is heartbreaking to see infants being born with problems as a result of painkillers being mismarketed by pharmaceutical companies.
The prevalence of NAS underscores the intergenerational impact of the opioid crisis, as it extends beyond the immediate individuals affected by addiction.
More effort needs to be made to try and slow the numbers down, so it not just helps people in the present, but ensures the safety of the next generation too.