American Opioid Epidemic

Subject: Health Care
Type: Problem Solution Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1396
Topics: Drug Abuse, Government, Public Health, War on Drugs


In the United States, the opioid epidemic is one of the sources of deep societal anguish. Studies have shown that almost every part of United States is now battling the problem of addiction to opioid (Marcovitz, 2017).  However, worst hit states include New Hampshire, Ohio and West Virginia.  According to the most recent definitive data on the prevalence of opioid epidemic from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health,  close to one hundred  million  American adults or about thirty nine percent use prescription opioid in each year . Further, for the one hundred million adults, about five percent misuses these prescriptions while close to one percent have a use disorder.

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The report, which was compiled in 2015 notes that the numbers may rise tremendously due to the increased rate of this epidemic.  In this way, it is clear that the opioid epidemic is affecting American adults but mostly the youth who are in drug abuse.  The survey further observed that America has more than seventeen million adults who are heavily addicted to alcohol, which creates a serious problem in the efforts to address opioid epidemic in the country (United States, 2017).  According to the Trust for America’s Health, the country has witnessed the increased rate of deaths associated with drug overdose, majority being prescription drugs. In close to thirty states, the number of those dying of drug overdose has doubled since the beginning of this century.  In fact the figures show that the number has quadrupled in four states as well as tripling in in more than ten states in the country (Marcovitz, 2017).  According to this agency, for example, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 with the aim of medicating all American adults for one month. However, study showed that most of these pills ended up being in the wrong hands of those who later abused them.

According to the Center Of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), abuse of prescription drugs is one of the main health related problems in the United States that is spreading at the highest rate. Studies by the CDC show that many of the adult Americans that use heroin today started by using opioids (Marcovitz, 2017). Therefore, it is unfortunate that although the rate of mortality due drugs prescription opioids has stabilized in the last two years, deaths associated with heroin have increased.  Further, though there are different causes of this problem, CDC notes that the increased prescription and use of opioid analgesics, has led to more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined (United States, 2017). Based on this reality, the following essay seeks to discuss the social costs and causes of the American opioid crisis, including the government involvement in the whole epidemic as well providing recommendations of how the crisis can be addressed.

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Social Cost Prescription Opioid Epidemic

According to the “Medical Care”, overdose of the prescription opioid, its abuse, as well as dependence carries high cost for the many in the American society, where it is estimated to cost the economy close to eighty billion dollars. Research study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control show that health care accounts for close to a third of the costs that are attributed to the prescription opioid problem (Marcovitz, 2017). On the other hand, about a quarter of the costs are borne by the American public sector.  According to this agency, about forty Americans die every day from drug overdoses that are limned to prescription opioids.  Consequently, communities, friends and families are continuing being devastated by this epidemic.  The estimation on the cost of lost productivity, nonfatal cases, as well as reduced hours of productivity is around twenty billion dollars (United States, 2017).  Studies show that close to two thirds the entire economic burden of prescription opioids epidemic is due to health care, treatment on substance abuse and recovery of the lost time for productivity and nonfatal cases.  On the other hand, fatal overdoses- including those costs linked to lost productivity and healthcare account for about twenty two billion dollars (Marcovitz, 2017). Public sources are said to fund close to twenty percent of the aggregate economic costs  which include costs that are funded by public insurance agencies such as Medicare ,Medicaid and veterans’ programs as well as  other sources from the government dealing with for treatment in the substance abuse .  Notably, it would be pivotal also to recognize that emotional torture that families undergo through due to the effects of prescription opioids on their family members.  Although it has not been possible quantify the emotional problems that parents, friends, guardians, or community members go through, the reality is that many in the society are suffering psychologically.

Causes of Prescription Opioids Epidemic

As noted above, there are several causes of opioids epidemic in the United States.  Firstly, healthcare professional cannot escape the blame (United States, 2017).  Notably, in the mid-1990s, doctors were responsible for overprescribing opioids without considering the consequences of their action.  The intention was to ensure that they were able to better attend to pain among patients, which was viewed as being undertreated in the medical practice.

Further, pharmaceutical companies are also part of those to be blamed for the epidemic.  Studies have revealed that many drug makers were eager to ensure that they made profit in the industry, thus fueling the problem (Marcovitz, 2017).  According to the findings of Missouri’s Senator, Claire MacAskill, some distributors and manufacturers such as Insys aggressively and repeatedly employed illegal techniques aimed at boosting opioids prescriptions.

Over years, health insurers have been receiving less attention. However, recent scrutinies have shown that they should as well be implicated (Quinones, 2015).  Notably, players in this industry have been providing easy access to opioids, while at the same time ensuring that individuals have limited access to less addictive but costly pain medication and treatment of addiction (Marcovitz, 2017). At a wider scope, social economic factor such as the rate of unemployment, poverty, and lack of healthcare cover have been cited as drivers to this epidemic.  However, the government should also be blamed as described below.

The Government Role in the Opioid Epidemic

Although the united states governments have seen to apply efforts in curbing the opioids epidemic,  investigation documented in by the “CBS’s “60 Minutes”” and The Post have exposed deliberate breakdowns in the government systems aimed at ensuring that the enforcement of drug distribution by the federal government was never effected (Marcovitz, 2017).  The report notes that there were aggressive lobbying activities as well as dysfunctional   White House and Congress to cripple the enforcement when the country was being dilapidated by the scourge.

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Connectively, at the center of the entire scheme is the Drug Enforcement Administration, which was charged with ensuring that the prescription narcotics never spilled over the legitimate chain of supply.  In this Administration is the Office of Diversion Control, whose mandate is keep pills safe such that they may not get into the hands of ““drug dealers in lab coats.”  However, this important enforcement would be undercut through a bill to the congress and which was supported by drug companies and signed by President Obama, without subjecting it to the serious scrutiny (Marcovitz, 2017). Failure to enforce the measures led to increased drug dens that were receiving millions of doses in West Virginia, Florida, Ohio, among other states, thus leading to widespread epidemic.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Despite opioid epidemic being a national disaster, there are some steps that need to be taken to ensure that the problem is addressed.

  • The first and the most immediate solution are stopping over prescription of opioids. On this, the government should look at the prescription practices and marketing methods which could play pivotal role in reducing the gap between the actual medical needs and amount of drugs prescribed. Some of the key players in these efforts include dentist, doctors and pharmacists.
  • Further, it would be important to provide easy access to the treatment process. Surprisingly, only a quarter of those with opioid problems receive actual treatment. However, if therapy is combined with medication, opioid addiction will be reduced.
  • Although more policies are needed, sensitization of the public should be increased across the country.

In reference to the above observation, it is clear that opioid epidemic is a national disaster that needs to be addressed. The above recommendations are only some of the measures that will help in solving the problem.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. In Johanson, P. (2018). Critical perspectives on the opioid epidemic. New York, NY: Enslow Publishing.
  2. Marcovitz, H. (2017). The Opioid Epidemic. Referencepoint Press.
  3. Quinones, S. (2015). Dreamland: The true tale of America’s opiate epidemic. New York: Bloomsbury Press.
  4. United States. (2017). examining the opioid epidemic: Challenges and opportunities: hearing before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourteenth Congress, second session, February 23, 2016.
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