Opioid Abuse By: Nathan Hoffarth

Opioid drugs can be powerfully effective treatments for those in pain, but they can also be extremely dangerous. This video explores how opioids can lead to dependence and addiction, and the effects that abuse has had in America. The video shows how drug manufactures, regulators,doctors, and patients have all contributed to the current crisis of opioid addiction.


  • Epidemic- A widespread problem affecting many people.
  • Contraband- Illegal items given or received.
  • Addiction- Being dependent on an object.
  • Unprecedented- Not known before, outstanding.
  • Agonist- A drug that can activate receptors in brain.
  • Abstinence- Resisting or refraining from the drug.
  • Overdose- Taking a dangerous amount of a drug.
  • Synthetic Drug- A drug that has been produced using multiple chemicals.

What is an Opioid?

Opioids have been increasingly common among the medical field and with an increased use new obstacles need to be overcome; however, to understand the problem, you need to understand the substance. Stated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Opioids are considered to be any substance natural (Endorphins) or synthetic (Morphine) that increase the amounts of response to any stress or pain.” Opioids have a specific job to dull pain and give the user a more comfortable time. Opioids are also natural and sometimes created from your own body meaning that opioids can be a completely natural and safe product; however, there are many types of opioids and with each one comes a different strength. Proclaimed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “ Usually opioids can be split up into two different groups; weak opioids which include a few drugs like codeine and dihydrocodeine, and strong opioids containing diamorphine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and more.” Many of these opioids are common in any medical fields either in a hospital or on a combat field for different scenarios. Opioids have different severities and with that can come additional help for more serious cases, but can also lead to addiction of the harder substances and can lead to other more addictive or dangerous drugs.

What are similarities between opioids and street drugs?

The general population views drug like morphine and other prescribed opioid painkillers as good because they help people, however this is not the case. These legal drugs are actually quite similar to many illegal street drugs that can be found everywhere. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) stated, “ Most opioid drugs such as heroin and opioid painkillers are extremely similar in terms of their chemical structure, mechanism of action and range of effects.” These drugs create similar effects and have similar structures. There isn’t a big difference between these drugs, however prescription painkillers (Opioids) are legal, and street drugs like Heroin is illegal. Attaining hard drugs like opioid painkillers can lead to more deadly substances, in fact the Center for Disease Control (CDC) proclaimed,“Heroin abuse, like prescription opioid abuse, is dangerous both because of the drug’s addictiveness and because of the high risk for overdosing. In the case of heroin, this danger is compounded by the lack of control over the purity of the drug injected and its possible contamination with other drugs such as fentanyl, a very potent prescription opioid that is also abused by itself” Opioids are powerful drugs and with more restrictions placed on it compared to street drugs like Heroin. This is why many people turn to the illegal use of street drugs and have a greater chance of overdosing, because the drugs are laced with other dangerous drugs that create deadly combinations.Although these opioids are harder to get than street drug, the death toll has been increasing recently and it leaves people wondering how.

Why has opioid abuse increased recently?

Recently, opioids have been used in the medical profession to help numb pain and make surgeries or recoveries easier; however, the increased use of opioids has lead to addiction and an epidemic. Pronounced by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “ In 2012, 259 million opioid prescriptions were written, a number that would allow every adult in the United States to have his or her own bottle.” Since opioids have been prescribed so much there is easier access to these drugs. Not every adult in the United States necessarily needs there own bottle and that leads to an excess that can be used and abused or sold to others who can abuse it. There is more than just an increase in the drug that has caused this problem, new drugs are adding.The Center for Disease Control (CDC) postulated, “ New drugs have been created with harsher and more addictive chemicals, that stimulate the brain and create a higher chance of addiction.” These drugs have become more addictive with time they will continue to do so. With the newer drugs, opioid addiction is harder to overcome and easier to be addicted. The increased rate of abuse has lead to damaging effects on local communities.

What effects has opioid abuse had on communities?

Since the increase in use has lead to a larger amount of overdoses and deaths in the community more emergency services are needed to protect the communities and try and combat the problem. These problems worsen the community and scare others away from that area. Stated by Wilson M. Compton, a researcher from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Emergency department visits involving misuse or abuse of prescription opioids increased 153% between 2004 and 2011, and admissions to substance-abuse treatment programs linked to prescription opioids more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2012.Most troubling, between 2000 and 2014 the rates of death from prescription-opioid overdose nearly quadrupled from 1.5 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 persons.” Communities have become more and more dangerous due to the opioid abuse and with that has come needed intervention by law enforcement and other emergency services. The misuse and deaths tolls rising create a more risky environment, one that is unfriendly to families. Although opioids are dangerous and worsen the area, it leads to other drugs like heroin. Declared by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Coinciding with these efforts to reduce non medical prescription-opioid use and overdoses are reports of increases in the rates of heroin use and deaths from heroin overdose. According to national surveillance data, 914,000 people reported heroin use in 2014, a 145% increase since 2007,and mortality due to heroin overdose more than quintupled, from 1842 deaths in 2000 to 10,574 deaths in 2014. Additionally, four out of five new heroin users reported to have begun abusing prescription painkillers before switching to heroin and a stunning 94 percent of heroin users being treated for opioid addiction stated that they switched to the street drug because it was cheaper than buying prescription pills.” With misuse and abuse of opioids it leads to other drugs like heroin that continue to ruin communities and bring in dangerous drugs. This drug trafficking similarly above causes deaths and ruins the community. Even though there are dangerous aspects to this topic, many communities are banding together and trying to solve this problem.

How are communities trying to solve this problem?

Many communities are worried about the rising epidemic and with that have thought of solutions to contradict the problem. Although not new techniques some have proven to be helpful. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said, “The opioid overdose antidote naloxone has reversed more than 10,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2010.For many years, naloxone was available only in an injectable formulation and was generally only carried by medical emergency personnel. However, the FDA has recently approved a new hand-held auto-injector of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose that is specifically designed to be given by family members or caregivers.” Although naloxone has been around for decades, it has recently been making strides to fix the opioid epidemic through handheld auto injectors that reverse the overdose. Before these drugs have been limited and harder to help addicts get relief from opioid addiction; however, now that it has been easier to get naloxone safely to addicts, we can reverse the problems and fix the addiction. New drugs are not the only way to fix this problem though. Postulated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The United States has placed $500 million a year toward the treatment of opioid abuse and to help addicts obtain better treatment.” The government has given money to educate the population about the dangers of opioid abuse as well as treatments to current addicts. These programs help addicts recover and return to productive members of society, and help to prevent youth and adults from making similar mistakes people before them made. All in all, opioid abuse has created many problems; however, many people have been trying to find solutions to this epidemic.

Works Cited

  • Contributor, Scott Erickson opinion. "Opioid addiction threatens more than health, it threatens safety." TheHill. TheHill, 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
  • We can't afford to wait: We need opioid alternatives for pain." The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 20 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
  • Abuse, National Institute on Drug. "America's Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse." NIDA. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, 14 May 2014. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
  • ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the USA2014 134 ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the USA Ann Arbor, MI ProQuest 2013-." Reference Reviews 28.4 (2014): 22-24. ProQuest. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.
  • Rudd, Rose A., et al. "Increases In Drug And Opioid Overdose Deaths--United States, 2000-2015." MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 64.50-51 (2016): 1378-1382. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
  • Opioids: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Prod. LastWeekTonight. Perf. John Oliver. HBO, 23 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.


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