Real or Hype? The Opioid Crisis

Nigus Getahun, Editor-in-Chief

The opioid crisis has been an almost constant in the headlines over the past several years With President Trump declaring the crisis as a public health emergency in 2017, it’s hard to pass it as a trivial issue. However, given how much amplification the government puts on anything related to drugs, it is impossible to not think that some of the elements associated with this crisis are hyped? So, is it real or hype?
We can trace the opioid crisis back to the 90s, when pharmaceutical companies were convincing the medical community of the benefits of their opioid pain relievers. Convinced that they were not addictive, health care providers started prescribing these substances at a greater rate; eventually leading to a huge misuse of these substances, and causing the death of 47,000 Americans in 2017 alone according to Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
The withdrawal effects of heroin, which are detrimental to one’s health, are at the heart of what’s making it difficult to fight this problem. When users are taken of their opioid prescription drugs, they transition to obtaining these drugs illegally or turn to other drugs such as heroin and illegally manufactured fentanyl. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, “An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin and about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.’’
The numbers for the overdose deaths have been going up ever since. President Trump’s administration has given many federal resources to tackle this issue, with a recent $1.8 billion dollars for funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to help states fight the crisis. According to a White House press release from October 2017, “The number of first-time heroin users ages 12 and older fell by more than 50 percent in July 2017.” It’s fair to say the Trump administration has been making progress, but the epidemic is still prevalent on a greater scale and continues to go up at a faster rate in 2019.
The huge amount of funding, recent court cases that have required pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue to pay massive penalties, and the spotlight of these issues in American news headlines beg the question: are they hype? No. These are all necessary to make a dent in this issue. We’ve seen this before with the crack epidemic of the 80s, which consequently killed and imprisoned many men and women, and caused the destruction of black families. In order to avoid the same fate, it’s important that we take cautious steps and do everything we can to stop the destructive effects of this epidemic. So, my conclusion: the opioid crisis is REAL.