The birth of a powerful evil
Since the late 1800s, drug abuse in America has been a major issue. During the Civil War, the Union Army issued around ten million opium pills to its soldiers, along with nearly three million pounds of opium powders (Smithsonian). Without having any warning about the dangers of opioids, doctors overprescribed opioids all over America, especially during the early twentieth century. Opioids were used for both medical and recreational reasons. In the 1920s, heroin was legal and very popular. Now, it is classified as a schedule one drug and is punishable with many years in prison and huge fines. Apart from being something you don’t want to be caught doing, opioid abuse ruins lives. Every day, 130 Americans die from overdosing on opioids (drugabuse.gov) That is almost 50,000 annual deaths. Almost 50,000 people not participating in society than the previous year. The problem of opioid addiction has been identified, but a lack of efficient solutions leaves 130 people dying every day.
Why I am interested, and why you should be too
The reason that I decided to write about this is because the opioid crisis is a real issue, and it affects all walks of life. If society doesn’t become better educated about the dangers of addictive drugs, and how they can severely affect everybody. If the majority of people were addicted to opioids, society would be less productive because people would only focus on getting more of whatever addictive substance they wanted. I believe that if people were educated, or knew why opioids were dangerous, a significant decrease in overdose rates would follow.
The Problem Today, and how we are trying to solve it
One reason so many people became addicted to opioids is that doctors historically have over-prescribed them at an increasing rate (drugabuse.gov). 9.4 million Americans are on long-term opioid medication, and an estimated 2.1 million out of them are addicted. Those 2.1 million people were most likely prescribed opioids when they could have been prescribed a different, less (or non-) addictive pain medication. Doctors often prescribe opioids because opioids are an easy, obvious, and fool-proof solution for pain, and have been the traditional choice for pain treatment for centuries. However, fewer and fewer doctors are prescribing opioids now as a pain medication, in aims of combating the opioid addiction crisis. In 2016, the CDC passed an updated guideline for the criteria needed in order for a patient to qualify for an opioid prescription (CDC). Since then, a minor decrease in opioid addiction has been noticed. In areas with severe opioid problems, doctors are more likely to comply with the CDC rules, because they are confronted in their personal lives by the overwhelming problem of opioid addiction. Improving the criteria necessary for an opioid prescription will decrease the number of drug addicts being prescribed unethically by doctors.
Big results are caused by small changes
To fix schools could have more classes about the dangers of drugs. Educated professionals could come in and show students how bad being addicted to opioids is, and why they should never consume opioids. Furthermore, teachers of all subjects could be better informed on how to educate against opioid abuse. If the nation’s youths are educated about the dangers from a young age, they will grow up in fear of harmful drugs, and with a better understanding of the legitimate consequences of opioid abuse, resulting in a massive decrease in opioid users. I believe that the creation of such classes being embedded into the curriculum starting in 6th grade and continuing through senior year of high school would show the best results. The best way to fix a potential problem is solving it before the problem becomes too large, to try to eradicate it from growing. With an educated youth, there would be less or no need for rehabilitation facilities. With an educated youth, society will prosper more without opioid addiction. There isn’t a lot you can do, apart from being educated and not adding to the hundreds of thousands of unfortunate people that weren’t educated enough and ended up with an addiction to opioids. Don’t just stop at yourself. If you want to lower the chance of people you know taking opioids, inform them about how bad the consequences of a few pills are.
The reason why the “legalize illegal drugs” solution would work is because it was already proven successful. In Denmark, addicts can go to safe injection sites the government created to inject with safe needles, be monitored by medical professionals in case of overdosing, and not have to hide in alleyways and elevators. Since June 2012, drug consumption rooms, or DCRs, have led to an increased rate of people attending rehabilitation programs. Jimmy, a heroin addict from Denmark, stated that the reason he entered a rehabilitation program was because the DCRs showed him that “normal people have fun too… and that life is not just drugs” (NPR). Many other people have opinions on the DCRs in Denmark. Police Deputy Kaj Lykke noted that “We used to think police could solve all these problems alone. But that doesn’t work,” he says. “We have to understand that drug users — the severely addicted — they need help. They need treatment, not punishment.” Officer Kay Lykke also established a 2 square mile area called “the free zone”. In the free zone, adults cannot be arrested for possession. He also explained that it was easier to stay on the streets as a drug-addicted person, rather than to take the next step to treatment and going to a DCR. Besides increasing the chance of rehabilitated people re-entering society, the DCRs decrease the number of people shooting up in the streets. I believe that implementing DCRs in areas with high rates of opioid consumption may be the best solution, and will show a major decrease not only in the number of people shooting up in the streets, but more importantly an increased rate of addicts entering rehabilitation programs. The more people in rehabilitation, the fewer people addicted.