The opioid epidemic is a large issue affecting people of a variety of ages across the country. Opioids were introduced to the market as a new safer pain medication and quickly grew in usage and popularity amongst the medical community. The issue of opioid abuse and addiction matters to me because I have seen how readily available opioids are, even today when the dangers of opioid addiction are much better known. With the continual availability of opioids through both legal and illegal avenues and the relative lack of information on this drug epidemic as compared to other drug epidemics, the rates of addiction and overdose are currently in a position to continue increasing. The opioid epidemic affects white people primarily, however it still affects people of all genders and races nationwide. The first wave of the opioid epidemic occurred in the late nineties, due to a large increase in prescriptions of opioids. Many people quickly became addicted and overdose rates skyrocketed. However this was widely not the fault of the patients, as not only were the dosages they received unnecessarily high, but there was also no education on the dangers of opioids and how addictive they are. The blame for this epidemic was quickly laid onto the Pharma companies that produced and marketed the drugs.
The main crime that was accused of the pharma companies, especially Perdue, was the false advertising of drugs such as OxyContin, which displayed them as being a new safe alternative to older pain medications, with less of a risk of addiction. This was clearly turned out to be untrue. The Pharma companies had convinced the medical community of the safeness of opioids, and thus the drugs became extremely overprescribed. This was not the only problem the Pharma companies were accused of perpetuating. The subsequent waves of the opioid epidemic, occurring in 2010 and 2013, were mainly the result of the illicit use of opioids. While the legal responsibility of these waves lays in the hands of the users, there is also blame to be pinned on the Pharma companies. The illegal use of opioids is said to have stemmed from Pharma company’s false advertising as well. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, “Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive”. The problem of opioid abuse continues to persist even today, over 20 years since it first started. It is still claiming lives, adding to the massive 400,000 opioid-related deaths since 1999.
The main approach to addressing the opioid epidemic has previously been to limit prescriptions and regulate the sale and use of opioids. This would have been greatly effective had it been implemented before the epidemic had begun. However, since the epidemic has now long since reached full swing, such preventative methods can only do so much to slow the epidemic, and have little chance of eradicating it. A different approach to mitigating this epidemic would be to educate potential users on the dangers of opioids to encourage responsible prescription use and discourage illicit use. To completely recuperate all current users would be a gargantuan task, whereas preventing future users is not only far more manageable but also can prove very effective. Our blog post will attempt to raise awareness towards the issue of opioid addiction and try to encourage responsible and legal use and use only in strictly necessary situations.
This issue is relevant to American Literature in that it relates to the drug use that served a significant role in the novel There There by Tommy Orange. There There demonstrated how drug and alcohol abuse are unfortunately very tied to Native Culture, especially in urban environments. It showed how Natives have often been pushed down the path of addiction, usually not from their own choice. This is similar to how many victims became addicted to opioids due to the Pharma company’s irresponsibility, not through their own fault.
In order to further understand this topic, I would have to look deeper into some of the lawsuits that have been brought against Pharma companies to better understand the specifics of their involvement in the opioid epidemic. It would also be beneficial to look deeper into other attempts to alleviate this issue to see which aspects of those approaches were successful, and then adapt my own approach accordingly.Tags: Berkeley High School opioidcrisis