The Origin and Progression of the Opioid Crisis
The opioid epidemic has been a growing issue in the United States for a long period of time. Unfortunately, even after countless attempts to control or stop it, the crisis is on a continuous incline. The spectrum of the opioid timeline consists of where they are derived from and how they make it to the streets for distribution. Unfortunately, as time passes, the purity of certain opioids decreases, causing a surge in overdose deaths related to a number of potent cutting agents.
Opioids, however, can be beneficial in certain cases like pain management and for major surgeries. Individuals who experience circumstances like these run a risk of contributing to the epidemic, but they may or may not be able to avoid any complications if they take opioid painkillers. The issue, though, lies within individuals who suffer from the disease of addiction, who are incapable of following the guidelines that can possibly prevent their addiction from spiraling out of control.
We are familiar with the dangers and consequences that arise from opioid use and abuse but are we familiar with the process of the opioid epidemic timeline? If not, here are the ins and outs of where opioids derived from and how their use led to a nationwide epidemic.
Where Do Opioids Come From?
Most opioids are derived from opium, which is extracted from the poppy plant. Opioids are full agonists that act on the opioid receptors in the brain. Since ancient times, the poppy plant has been used for many holistic reasons due to its healing and euphoric properties. Unripe poppy seeds contain a milky fluid that is treated specifically to form the dried resin known as opium.
In countries like India, Turkey, and Australia it is legal to grow opium producing plants to be used strictly for the creation of medicinal products around the world. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is one of the leading companies in the legal poppy production and opium trade. According to an article from The Washington Post, “…they contributed to the opioid epidemic by manufacturing 500 million pills that ended up in Florida between 2008 and 2012—making up 66 percent of all oxycodone sold in the state.”
Not only are the world’s legal poppy production affiliates aiding the worsening opioid timeline, the illegal drug trade is also playing a role. The three main sources for illegal opium are Burma, Afghanistan, and Columbia; with opium and heroin in high demand, the products will continue to make their way onto the streets.
Morphine is a derivative of opium, which is processed into heroin almost immediately using a special technique. Substances such as morphine naturally occur in the manufactured and distributed opium. The morphine and heroin are initially pure, but the illegal drug trade aids in the impurities found in drugs like heroin. Although heroin is the most notorious drug known to lead to overdose-related death, new, severely potent drugs are making their way into opioid pain pills. The pills are pressed with fentanyl or carfentanil and they are being sold under a different name to increase profit margins.
How the International Drug Trade Affects the Opioid Timeline
Although heroin was once legal, the United States banned all legal sales in 1923—leading to the beginning of the growth of the illegal drug trade. Despite certain opioids’ illicit nature, opioid painkillers were and are still easily accessible through medical professionals. The illegal drug trade has been an issue in the United States for hundreds of years. More recently, the opioid epidemic and the influx of opioids in the U.S. is leading to an extraordinarily high number of opioid-related overdose deaths.
Within the last couple of years, the U.S. has seen a consistent increase in the number of individuals dying from street drugs—prescription painkillers included. The opioid timeline of the illegal drug trade is at a record level high, with little end in sight.
The international drug trade consists of the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sales of drugs subjected to prohibition laws. Although a large number of opioid drugs are seized during the smuggling process, there is still roughly 430-450 tons of heroin and other opioid drugs annually flowing into the global market.
The high demand for these drugs makes it easier for countries involved in the illegal drug trade to produce as much as they do. Also, profit margins are higher due to the number of less expensive, yet highly potent cutting agents that are used when selling the drugs to people in active addiction.
How Are Opioids Negatively Impacting Society?
The opioid epidemic is enhanced by the international drug trade as well as big pharmaceutical companies, despite having said authority to manufacture and distribute highly addictive substances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is estimated between 26.4 and 36 million people worldwide suffer from opioid addiction. From 2005 to 2012, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths nearly doubled from 380,000 to 670,000 annually.
The effects of opioids on the brain and body are severe as they attach to specific receptors while producing a sense of well-being and overall euphoria. Almost immediately, given certain individual factors, you can become addicted to opioids simply due to the impact they have on you both psychologically and physically. However, the stigma of addiction can also be a negative factor in the opioid timeline. Individuals are less receptive to getting help out of fear of being judged or looked down upon for succumbing to opioid addiction.
Although there are hundreds of addiction treatment resources, according to research from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Heath, as many as 95 percents of individuals don’t get help for their addiction or do not think they need it.
Pain researchers are also pushed to develop new approaches to treat pain in hopes of diminishing the risks associated with the healthcare aspect of the timeline of opioid addiction.
Understanding the root of the entire opioid epidemic timeline can educate anyone on the impact the opioid epidemic has on not only people in active addiction, but healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, society, and individuals involved in the international drug trade.
Where Can You Find Help?
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid abuse, do not hesitate to seek help. The opioid timeline associated with how the drugs make it to the street is an entirely different realm than the timeline of addiction and withdrawal. Opioid addiction contributes to a large number of preventable deaths annually, so don’t become another statistic. Ocean Breeze Recovery is here to help you find the right program that suits your individual needs.