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opioid epidemic

Why the Opioid Epidemic is Nothing New

An opioid epidemic has been happening in the United States for years. The crisis has created calls for action to halt the rise in overdoses and deaths which have devastated communities far and wide. The opioid epidemic, itself, is actually nothing new. A similar epidemic occurred in the United States 150 years ago. Find out what some of the lessons from that epidemic were and how it can provide insight into the ongoing crisis today.

A History of Crisis

Opioids are a class of drugs that relieve pain by acting on the central nervous system. Synthetic versions, such as fentanyl, and medications derived from natural and synthetic sources (oxycodone) are also included in this class. Addiction takes many forms, but the crisis began with use and abuse of legal painkillers in the 1990s. Medications were prescribed by well-meaning doctors which led to prescription of opioids for a wide range of aches and pains. As far back as 1817, a pharmacologist help up opium as the most useful drug for a doctor to use with patients with morphine being derived from opium. It was not until the 1860s and 1870s addiction became a widespread phenomenon. Before the invention of the hypodermic needle in the 1870s, addiction was not a concern. Hypodermic needles delivered morphine directly into a person’s veins with no side effects and immediate results. Near-instantaneous symptomatic relief for a wide range of diseases was possible in the form of a small syringe. Many considered this a magic wand for pain relief.

Dangers of Overuse

Skeptics in the medical profession warned about the dangers of administering too much morphine. The warnings fell on deaf ears while some of the problem lay with doctors who were prescribing for every ache and pain. Doctors often traveled a fair distance back in the day to see people in pain so immediate relief was a good thing for patients. Well-meaning doctors who administered morphine faced pressure to provide support for patients in pain. Milder analgesics came into being later (aspirin, for example) which offered a less powerful, but safer, alternative to the use of morphine.

Changes have been seen recently due to the overprescription of opioids. The number of prescriptions written by doctors has dropped by small amounts as patients and doctors become more aware of the real dangers of addiction.  It may take some time to move away from the prescription of opioids for pain but it may or may not help the opioid crisis, already in full swing, across the United States.

If you are struggling with addiction to opiates, we can help.  We provide a safe space to detox and get clean from opiates or other substances. Serenity Recovery Center helps you prepare for the journey of recovery with our resources and tools. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964