Opioids and the War Against Drugs in America – 20 Years Later

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The highly under-published problem of opioid prescription drug abuse actually is one of the main causes of our ongoing drug war.  This drug war is currently being waged locally and nearby is reaching fever pitches in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Opioid painkillers are a class of psychoactive substances that are mainly used for pain management and include codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone (among others).

Today, the extreme consumption of prescription opioids greatly surpasses that of any of our previous drug crises by all measures and accounts, including heroin in the 1960s and 1970s, and crack cocaine in the 1980s and 1990s.

Rates of overdose for those addicted to prescription opioids have exceeded anything we saw with heroin or cocaine because those who ingest them ingest them in a dangerous manner (chewing, smoking, injecting, or mixing with other drugs).

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reports a 100 percent increase in emergency room visits associated with prescription drug misuse since 2007. After marijuana, prescription drugs comprise the majority of illicit drug abuse among 12th-graders in the United States, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study.

In 2011, President Obama’s administration openly stated that “Prescription drug abuse is the Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem,” and similarly to the crack error Presidency of George Bush, they have also labeled the problem an “epidemic.”

This is not a simple endemic problem to overcome. Prescription drug abuse, as defined by NIDA, is “the intentional use of a medication without a prescription; in a way other than as prescribed; or for the experience or feeling it causes.”

This groups together a wide array and range of abusers, including those who do the drugs for fun and also those who gained an addiction after they were prescribed the medications by a doctor for pain and many other ailments. Unfortunately those who lack health care coverage have delved into the illegal drug trade just to get the medication they so desperately need.

Although there are no easy solutions to this equation, it can be widely agreed that we need to direct our efforts and attention to the domestic dimensions of our most blatant drug epidemic to date. Prescription pills and opiates provide a wide array of benefits to those who need their effects, but their overproduction and lax regulation has helped to create an overwhelming circumstance in America today.