Factors Contributing To The Opioid Epidemic

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Factors Contributing to the Opioid Epidemic in America
If you watch the news it should come as no surprise that drug abuse and overdoses have increased dramatically in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as 36 million people abuse opioids throughout the world with 2.1 million in the U.S. who currently suffer from opioid abuse disorders (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). These astonishing numbers are only marginalized when comparing them to opioid related deaths in the United States. With an increase of 137 percent since 2000, deaths from drug overdoses now occur 1.5 times more often than deaths from motor vehicle accidents (Rudd Aleshire, Zibbell & Gladden, 2016). The opioid epidemic in the
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The drug was first created in 1898 as a medicine to relieve pain to those who were suffering from illnesses. However, it was eventually pulled from the market due to its severe and unwanted side effects. Heroin is made from a milky substance found inside the poppy plant. Pure heroin is as much as eight times stronger than that of morphine (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017).
So how do opioids work and what makes them so addictive? We all have millions of pain receptors throughout our body called nociceptors that send information about pain to our brains. These pain receptors are on our skin, within our organs, and our spinal cord. Opioids are given for pain because they block the signals from the nociceptors to our brain. In addition to this, opioids cause a sense of euphoria which is the “high” that accompanies the medication (Healthcare Triage, 2016). Our bodies actually produce their own opioid chemicals that many people know of as endorphins. However, long-term use of opioids can make the body stop producing endorphins which can lead to dependence on medications (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). The way people take or abuse these drugs varies as well. Opioid pills such as hydrocodone or oxycodone are taken by mouth while heroin is typically injected. However, people that abuse the drugs are now crushing the pills to snort or inject which increases the intensity of the “high.” This method is also more dangerous because the risk of respiratory
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