Articles, Blog

Terrifying Facts About The Current Opioid Addiction Epidemic

December 12, 2019


Top 10 Terrifying Facts About The Current
Opioid Epidemic 10. Its Availability is Built on Faulty Science One question surrounding the opioid epidemic
is why would the FDA allow doctors to sell a drug that is so dangerous and addictive? Before the 1980s, opioids were used for short
term pain, like for surgery and end of life care, but then in the January 10, 1980, issue
of The New England Journal of Medicine a one paragraph letter to the editor was published
that would change America. It was submitted by Dr. Herscel Jick and his
graduate student, Jane Porter, who were from the Boston University Medical Center. The letter was entitled “Addiction Rare
in Patients Treated with Narcotics.” It reads: Recently, we examined our current files to
determine the incidence of narcotic addiction in 39,946 hospitalized medical patients’ who
were monitored consecutively. Although there were 11,882 patients who received
at least one narcotic preparation, there were only four cases of reasonably well documented
addiction in patients who had a history of addiction. The addiction was considered major in only
one instance. The drugs implicated were meperidine in two
patients, Percodan in one, and hydromorphone in one. We conclude that despite widespread use of
narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with
no history of addiction. What some people drew from this letter to
the editor, which wasn’t peer-reviewed, was that less than one percent of people who use
narcotics become addicted. What wasn’t included with the letter were
the actual results of their study. When people went back later to examine the
results, they found out that his experiment was done over a short time and the subjects
were given a small dose of narcotics in a controlled environment when they had acute
pain. That is a whole lot different than giving
someone narcotics they can take home and do whenever they want over a long period of time. In other words, Jick absolutely did not show
that less than one percent of people get addicted to narcotics. However, by the time people examined the results
of his study, it was too late. In 1986, a paper citing it was published in
Pain, which is a journal published by the International Association for the Study of
Pain. In the paper, the authors, Dr. Russell Portnoy
and Kathy Foley, said that their study found that opioids “…can be safely and effectively
prescribed to selected patients with relatively little risk of producing the maladaptive behaviors
which define opioid abuse.” In their study, out of 38 cancer patients
with chronic pain who were given opioids over a short term, only two of them became addicted. The paper advises long term studies, which
never happened. Around the same time, several pharmaceutical
companies, like Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, were developing their own opioid drugs. They started to market them to doctors in
high end publications citing the Portnoy article and Jick’s letter to the editor. They even went as far to start non-profit
groups to push the use of opioids for long term chronic pain, like back and neck pain,
even though there were absolutely no studies that supported the idea that opioids should
be used long term. In 1996, the American Pain Society and the
American Academy of Pain Management published a consensus, partially written by Portnoy,
stating that opioids were addictive to less than 1% of users so doctors could prescribe
opioids for chronic pain. Also in the consensus, they said that there
was little risk that people will become addicted and/or overdose. Of course, that consensus was dead wrong because
it wasn’t based on facts and opioids are addictive and do lead to overdoses. In 2011, Portnoy spoke out against the idea
that opioids for chronic pain don’t lead to addiction. He said: “None of [the papers] represented
real evidence, and yet what I was trying to do was to create a narrative so that the primary
care audience would look at this information.” 9. Can be a Gateway Drug to Heroin According to several studies, about 80% of
people who try heroin say that the first opioid they tried were prescription painkillers. There are several reasons that people turn
from prescriptions to heroin. One reason is that they start to build up
a tolerance to the opioids so they start using more pills. However, doctors should only be doling out
a certain amount of pain pills. So the person looks for ways to supplement
their pills and sometimes they will turn to heroin because it has similar effects as prescription
painkillers, but it is much cheaper. Generally, for a 60 milligram pill, for an
uninsured person, it is $60. For the same amount of heroin, it’s about
one-tenth that price. Another reason that people turn to heroin
is because they get cut off from their painkillers for some reason and they no longer have access
to them. This becomes a problem when the government
cracks down on prescription drugs because people aren’t going to instantly stop doing
opioids if they can’t get them. Opioids are so addictive that abusers will
kill other people to get their next high and some abusers won’t even quit when they get
their children taken away. So simply limiting access to painkillers isn’t
the solution because users will simply switch to a cheaper alternative that is provided
by organized crime syndicates, usually the Mexican cartels and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Heroin is also much more dangerous because
users can never be sure what is in it, for example it could contain fentanyl. 8. What is Fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was first
developed in the 1960s. It is incredibly strong and it can be anywhere
from 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine or heroin. Two milligrams, which is two grains, are enough
to cause an overdose. It was originally developed in the 1960s to
be given to patients for surgery and to people with severe pain from metastatic, colon, and
pancreatic cancer. It first started being abused by people working
at the hospital. It was then later made into take-home patches,
which people quickly began to abuse. They would soak the patches in water and drink
fentanyl like a tea. In the 1980s, fentanyl was sold under the
street name China White. Also around this time, heroin started to be
laced with fentanyl, which made the heroin much more potent. Today, fentanyl can be found in cocaine, heroin
and in counterfeit painkiller tablets. As for how it kills someone, the president
of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Dr. J.P. Abenstein says, “What happens is
that people stop breathing on it. The more narcotic you take, the less your
body has an urge to breathe. And it makes sense that a lot of people are
overdosing on it because they aren’t sure how much to take.” The most notable person who died from a Fentanyl
overdose was the musician Prince who passed away in April 2016. One reason that fentanyl is so dangerous is
because illegal labs are making it from scratch using dangerous toxins. This makes the drug a lot more unpredictable,
so it is much easier for people to overdose. It is also tasteless and odorless, so sometimes
people using counterfeit painkillers or doing heroin don’t even realize they are taking
fentanyl. One place that is particularly hard hit with
fentanyl overdoses is Canada. In British Columbia, half of all deaths in
the province are from fentanyl overdoses. It has gotten so bad that funeral directors
in British Columbia give naloxone nasal spray, which helps prevents opioid overdoses, to
the friends and families of overdose victims, just in case they turn to opioids to deal
with their grief. The funeral directors, who host about four
funerals a month for people who overdose on fentanyl, said that they are tired of seeing
so many families destroyed by the drug. 7. It Was Fueled In Part by the War on Drugs The War on Drugs was launched in 1971 by President
Richard Nixon and it’s been a losing battle ever since. Over a trillion dollars has been spent on
it trying to go after manufacturers, traffickers, and distributors of narcotics, but as of 2016,
over 20 million Americans have a substance abuse problem, there are a record number of
drug overdoses, and the drug cartels are as powerful and as deadly as they have ever been. There are some critics of the War on Drugs
who think that it helped fuel the opioid epidemic because of its misguided policies. Specifically, it shouldn’t have targeted marijuana,
which is relatively harmless compared to opioids. Notably, there are no confirmed records of
anyone overdosing on marijuana and some experts think that it is impossible to overdose on
marijuana. According to a DEA briefing, someone would
have to smoke 1,500 pounds of weed in 15 minutes to overdose. Another benefit that marijuana has over opioids
is that it’s not nearly as addictive. Several medical marijuana studies have shown
that marijuana is effective for the very thing that opioids are now prescribed to treat – chronic
pain. In a study, 80 percent of people were able
to substitute marijuana for painkillers. It can also be seen in the real world and
not just in studies. In areas where medical marijuana is available,
deaths from opioids drop anywhere from 15 to 35 percent. However, because marijuana was vilified in
the War on Drugs, it is still illegal in 40 states, but legal opioids continue to ravage
the country. 6. Could Lead to Dozens or Even Hundreds of HIV
Outbreaks One of the biggest side-effects of the opioid
epidemic is that it could lead to increased levels of HIV because of users sharing needles. Since 1993, HIV infections from sharing needles
dropped by 90 percent. However, that number is expected to increase,
because while a lot of people take advantage of needle exchange programs, one study found
that one-third of people who injected drugs intravenously admitted to sharing needles. In 2016, 22 cities in America saw an increase
in HIV infection rates from needle sharing and the Center for Disease Control says that
there are 220 rural communities that are highly vulnerable to an outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis
C. One small town that has already experienced
an HIV outbreak because of needle sharing is Austin, Indiana. Out of the town’s 5,000 residents, there are
190 diagnosed cases of HIV and more people have yet to be tested. The source of the HIV is a drug den, which
is a single story brick house, and at any given time, half a dozen people live or squat
there, and many of them are addicted to an opioid called Opana. Needle exchanges were illegal in Indiana and
the addicts’ needles were shared hundreds of times. When asked why they shared the needles at
the risk of getting HIV, one user said they just didn’t think it would happen. 5. It’s Hard to Get Treatment When someone stops taking an opioid that they’re
addicted to, their body begins to go through withdrawal. They get tremors, a terrible fever, they vomit,
have diarrhea, and experience other terrible flu-like symptoms. They also get very depressed and there is
an intense feeling of hopelessness. Unfortunately, once someone is on the other
side of their withdrawal, they aren’t instantly cured of their addiction and relapses are
possible. So while some people can quit drugs on willpower
alone, it’s not as easy for a lot of people. The problem is that the brain structure and
function change in people who abuse opioids, so some people need professional help or they
will not be able to get off the drug. Unfortunately, many people can’t get the help
they desperately need. Drug addiction treatment is expensive, and
in some cases, drug users have sold everything they’ve own and live on the streets to support
their habits. How are they able to pay for treatment? Even for people who aren’t living on the streets,
it’s hard to get treatment for addiction because most health insurance plans don’t cover addiction
treatment. While there are public treatment facilities,
unfortunately, the beds are always full and there are waitlists to get help. This is one of the most heartbreaking aspects
of the epidemic. People, who may have hit rock bottom and are
anxious to get help, take a huge step by reaching out and asking for help and they get told
to “call back in two weeks.” Two weeks can be a long time to spend in a
pit of despair that is created by addiction. In 2013, 316,000 people with substance abuse
problems tried to get treatment, but they were turned away. 4. More People Die from Overdoses than Car Crashes
and Gunshots The death stats for opioids are as shocking
as they are depressing. Between 2001 and 2014, the number of deaths
from overdoses increased six fold. However, the deadliest year on record, so
far, was 2016. Deaths from heroin overdoses rose 23 percent
from 2015 to 2016, totaling 12,989. Deaths from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl,
spiked by 73 percent to 9,580. However, the most devastating drug of them
all was prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. 17,536 people died from overdosing on them
in 2016. That is a total of 52,404 opioid overdose
deaths, which is an overall increase of 12 percent from 2015. Deaths from opioid overdoses dwarfed the fatalities
from car accidents, which was 37,757, and gun deaths, including homicides and suicides,
which was 36,252. It is also more deadly than the AIDS epidemic
was when it was at its peak. 3. Enough Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers
Are Written Every American Adult to Have Their Own Bottle One question that inevitably arises is why
are there so many opioids available? Unfortunately, it’s because too many doctors
prescribed too many of them. In 2012, physicians wrote 259 million prescriptions
for opioid painkillers. That is enough for every adult in America
to have their own bottle of pills. Of course, not all of these pills were used
by the patients. Some of them made it to onto the black market,
patients have them stolen, and patients share them with friends and family. Amazingly, in Canada, which is another country
that is having an opioid epidemic, the rate of prescriptions for opioids increased from
2015 to 2016. In 2015, doctors gave out 19.9 million prescriptions,
but that number increased to 20 million in 2016. Meaning, despite knowing the dangers, physicians
are still liberally prescribing opioids. 2. The Opioid Orphans One major casualty of the opioid epidemic
is the children who are affected by it. Horror stories in the news about young children
finding their parents dead or dying from an overdose are becoming way too common. However, many children of addicts do not happen
upon their parents’ bodies or them dying because many times the children are taken
away because one, or both of their biological parents, are too addicted to opioids to take
care of them. That is how powerful the addiction to opioids
are; people will continue to do drugs at the expense of losing their children. The overall number of kids orphaned or put
into foster care because of their parents’ addictions is hard to figure out; but what
is known is utterly depressing. For example, Kentucky’s Appalachian ridge
area is one of the hardest hit areas of the country for opioid addiction. According to the 2010 census, 86,000 children
in Kentucky were being raised by someone who wasn’t their biological parents, usually their
grandparents. While not all of the children that are living
with someone that is a non-biological parent are the result of opioid addiction, it’s believed
to be one of the biggest reasons. In Vermont, one-third of the calls made to
family services hot lines involve opioid addictions and between 2013 and 2016, they saw a 40 percent
increase in foster care cases. Meanwhile, West Virginia, another state ravaged
by opioid addiction, saw an increase of 24 percent in foster care cases between 2012
and 2016. 1. Purdue Pharma You may recognize Purdue Pharma from entry
#10 as one of the companies that pushed for opioids to be used for long term pain by citing
misleading studies and creating fake non-profits that pushed for opioids to be prescribed. Well, Purdue is also considered responsible
for setting off the whole epidemic. Purdue Pharma was purchased in 1952 by three
brothers, who were all psychiatrists. One of the brothers, Arthur Sackler, was a
pioneer in medical marketing. He was famous for finding enough uses for
Valium that it became the first drug to make $100 million. Sackler was also one of the first medical
advertisers to develop relationships with doctors where they would give the doctors
free stuff and/or money in the hopes that the doctors would prescribe their products. In 1996, Purdue introduce their new drug OxyContin. It was a time released oxycodone, which is
a semi-synthetic opioid that is manufactured by modifying a chemical called thebaine, which
is an organic chemical that is found in opium. It is chemically similar to morphine and codeine. Purdue spent $200 million marketing OxyContin
and between 1996 and 2000, they more than doubled their sales force. The average yearly bonus for salespeople was
$70,000 and some were as high as $500,000. In the first year, OxyContin made Purdue $45
million. There is evidence that Purdue knew that hundreds
of doctors were recklessly prescribing OxyContin as early as 2002. In 2016, Purdue was aware that at least 1.1
million OxyContin pills ended up being sold by organized crime syndicates like the Armenian
mafia and the Crips. However, in all that time, Purdue has done
very little to stop reckless prescribing or to curb OxyContin trafficking. They didn’t even pass on their findings to
law enforcement or even cut off the supplies to offending parties. In 2016, the revenues from OxyContin were
at $31 billion.

17 Comments

  • Reply TopTenz July 20, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you to the many of you who are sharing your stories of addiction and getting clean again. Please share your stories and be the motivation that others may need who will see this video.

  • Reply Ryan 8191 August 28, 2019 at 12:56 am

    Alcohol kills over 80,000 Americans every year. Millions abuse it and destroy there lifes. Yet it's ok!
    Tobacco kills over 2500 people a day. .in a long painful way. Yet that's ok!

  • Reply Jason Juneau August 29, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    After 2 spine surgeries I was on fentanyl for a while plus percocet. I may need another surgery because I have a compression fracture in between my shoulder blades. Thanks to the junkies chasing a high, it makes it harder for people who actually pain medication.

  • Reply steve Pepke September 2, 2019 at 4:49 am

    Trying to control Opioids prescribed and including street drugs into the statistics is what is causing the entire problem. This works just like prohibition, when Alcohol was banned, a black market was born only this black market is now creating some horrifying drug mixtures combining street drugs with pharmaceutical medications that kill at an exponential rate.
    The other misleading fact of this Opioid topic is how they categorize pharmaceutical grade medications together with street drugs. I don't consider ANY drug to be pharmaceutical once it has been mixed with an illegal street drug, instead, it should now be classified exclusively as a street drug.
    I completely get why the people who have never suffered from a severe and debilitating chronic pain issue don't understand why it is that those who do rely on these pain medications to help them have a quality of life.
    I used to say the same thing before I herniated multiple discs in my neck while the Doctors tell me that my injury is beyond our current medical capabilities to treat. And worst of all isn't the horrible nonstop pain that is 24/7 and 365, but, the other symptoms such as severe dizziness.
    I tried many medications to control the dizziness but non of them worked until I discovered a couple of years later that Opioid pain medication did (I didn't start my treatment with Opioids). The reason pain medications worked was do to the way it controlled pain, Opioids make your brain ignore symptoms, thus ignoring the signal to my brain that told me I was feeling dizzy. I don't like taking any kind of medications and I did stop taking them after my 2nd surgery, until 3 months down the road when my nerves were all healed and the symptoms returned, because unfortunately, they hadn't successfully corrected my injuries.

  • Reply Kew Gardens Station September 8, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Michael Jackson did not die of opioid addiction. He overdosed on propofol and benzodiazepines and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

    Amy Winehouse died of acute alcohol poisoning. Whitney Houston died of a combination of drowning, cocaine abuse, and coronary artery disease. Philip Seymour Hoffman died of mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamine.

  • Reply Rob Hagaman September 14, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Re: doctors. You have to ace the BAR to be a lawyer. You just have to pass to be a doctor.

  • Reply Nick Shane September 25, 2019 at 1:25 am

    To everyone complaing that he dose not talk about the people who actually need the medication it is because the video is about addicts who abuse them and how it got started so the people who need and don't abuse them are not addicts are not talked about that much

  • Reply Ganieda Morgan September 25, 2019 at 2:00 am

    I've suffered severe migraines all my life. Often as many as 4/5 a month some lasting a week or more. I also have severe fibromyalgia. I have tried many types of meds for them and some worked…to cut the pain but not to prevent it. Now, I take one 10mg capsule of Cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound in marijuana – (no THC), every night. I have not had a migraine in over a year and the fibro pain is almost non-existent. No more narcotics or side effects.

  • Reply Ganieda Morgan September 25, 2019 at 2:05 am

    Don't forget, there is a HUGE difference between use and abuse.

  • Reply lexzbuddy September 25, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Very sensible and thoughtful piece. Well done.

  • Reply valerie Torelli September 25, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    The problem now is the people who really need the pain killers and are not addicted. Have tremendous hurdles to jump over they are treated like addicts. I for one hate being treated this way
    I have spinal fusion from T 10 to S 2 basically my entire lumbar spine. I still have pain but I struggle to get medication legally. I still work full time but the pain in my back my hips and legs gets so bad I want to cry sometimes even give up. But I have my family to think about so I keep putting one foot in front of other my last MRI show a large protruding disc at L4 L5.

  • Reply Brian Packard October 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Not Amy Winehouse, that is incorrect. She died of acute alcohol poisoning.

  • Reply punkinhoot October 14, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Legal weed costs twice as much as free market weed. Most is grown in ontario, because most of the growing licences were issued to the pm's buddies. So folks in bc are expected to pay more for shite, because the best growers are too small to afford a liscence. Medical marijuana is completey illegal now. Does this sound like big pharma to you too?

  • Reply Robert Deen November 17, 2019 at 4:40 am

    Thank you. You said a few things that needed saying but perhaps left out a couple. The brain develops a tolerance faster then the respiratory system. Hence the person doesn't feel his or her usual buzz and does more till their heart and lungs shut down. Most long time junkies are aware of this fact. The goal is not to get high but to stay normal meaning not dope sick.
    Personally I think most of the death by OD is the younger crowd, which is sad. Again long time users have a better grip on it as well as their friends. When a 17 year old ODs in his friends basement or wherever, their friends are just as inclined to run away rather then help as they really don't know what to do.
    You were 100% correct when you said doctors were forced to cut back or cut off peoples prescriptions making the problem far worse. People who were used to pharmaceuticals grade drugs ended up buying off the street.
    Almost every doctor I spoke to agreed they were making it worse but none stood up to the collage and said anything. I recall one doc in Ontario spoke up and lost his licence.
    At this point in time I think the best thing to do is let us that became addicted have our drugs. Focus on the next generation and merp them off the stuff. Again, folks have killed themselves because of the withdrawals. It is nasty and pure hell for anyone to go through.
    I could say much more but will leave it here. Thanks for calling it like it is.

  • Reply SE ASIA November 20, 2019 at 2:26 am

    From Anti Nazi Anti Racist Anti COMMUNIST ! Poppy flowers are beautiful & very common here! The POPPY roots are not addictive & relieve pain ! The POPPY seeds used in baking must be used carefully! Banana cake covered with POPPY SEEDS is so yummy just one slice is safe! Heroin is very dangerous DONT USE IT! ITS AVAILABLE HERE in SE ASIA ? OPIUM IS available here DONT USE IT! PATTAYA BEACH THAILAND ??

  • Reply abz November 20, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Hey Simon these are the same companies that tell you that all vaccines are safe and are pushing for more and more restrictions on parents to choose what's right for their children. Did you know that Congress passed a law that protects pharma companies from being held liable from injuries caused to families by the very own "medicine" they created? May be you should do more investigation on the "studies" that have been done in that topic as well. Also look at the alternative studies. The ones that are harder to find. There out there…. Just very well hidden

  • Reply Emily Jelassi December 1, 2019 at 1:27 am

    Not a single mention of how those who are suffering from from chronic pain rarely abuse their medication! The crackdown on doctors and prescribing has meant that there is an increase in those chronic pain patients who have been cut off from their medication, which has lead to an increase in the number of chronic pain patients committing suicide.

  • Reply Jennifer Lindsey December 3, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Living with addiction is not easy, but there IS help.

  • Leave a Reply