The opioid crisis began to take root in the mid-1990s, when thousands of Americans started getting hooked on prescription painkillers.
Many found their way to addiction by misusing prescription opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin that were prescribed by medical professionals to treat pain. As a result of increasing painkiller addiction, deaths caused by opioid overdose began rising. Within a few decades the epidemic became America’s worst drug crisis ever.
The turning point came in the late 2000s, when the US government and regulatory bodies took steps to limit the supply of prescription pills. Hoping to stem the increasing rate of opioid addiction, authorities began tightening drug regulations and penalizing drug manufacturers. By the start of the next decade, the number of overdoses caused by prescription painkillers began to level off.
The efforts to limit the supply of prescription painkillers had a negative consequence: When addicts could no longer find pills, they turned to more potent opioids and many began using heroin.
As the rate of heroin usage began climbing, the desire for more potent opioids increased. And soon, overdoses caused by fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, began rising. Now, opioids like carfentanil that are even stronger than fentanyl are starting to make the rounds.
The iterative progression of the opioid epidemic demonstrates the need for more responsible drug policy. In addition to cracking down on the supply of drugs, authorities can work to reduce the demand for opioids by providing effective addiction treatments. Besides conventional addiction treatments like Suboxone and Methadone, authorities might consider promoting non-traditional therapies, like those involving marijuana, prescription heroin, ibogaine, or kratom.
To learn more about fentanyl and how it is intensifying the opioid epidemic, make sure to watch the video above.