The Opioid Crisis

Over the past two decades, the United States has experienced dramatic increases in the rates of opioid use, overdose, and death. Experts have used many terms to describe this problem, including the opioid crisis and the opioid epidemic.

What Is the Opioid Epidemic?

Most experts identify the mid-to-late 1990s as the starting point for the nation’s current opioid problem. During that decade, doctors began writing opioid prescriptions with increasing frequency.

According to a report that was published in the March 2018 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 3 million opioid prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 1990. In 1996, 8 million prescriptions were written for medications that contained opioids. By 1999, the annual total of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. was 11 million.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the rate of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. peaked in 2012, when 255 million prescriptions were written. By 2018, doctors in the U.S. wrote 168 million prescriptions for opioids. Thankfully, this facet of the nation’s opioid problem has shown some improvement in recent years, but significant challenges persist.

Of course, these opioid stats only tell part of the story. As new or more effective medications become available, it is not uncommon to see significant increases in their use over time. However, opioids are highly addictive substances. They can be dangerous even when prescribed by a qualified physician to treat a legitimate medical concern.

Many people who first took opioids at their doctor’s recommendation developed opioid use disorder, which is the clinical term for opioid addiction. Some of these people were able to illicitly acquire more prescription opioids, while others turned to morphine, heroin, or other illegal substances to stave off the painful withdrawal symptoms that can quickly occur.

Opioid Facts & Statistics

Many people who become addicted to opioids, including those who eventually begin to use heroin and other illegal drugs, develop these opioid problems after receiving prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported the following statistics about the relationship between prescription opioid use, opioid misuse, and addiction:

  • Experts estimate that the rate of opioid misuse is as high as 29% among patients who receive an opioid prescription to treat chronic pain.
  • Studies suggest that as many as 12% of people who receive opioid prescriptions for chronic pain develop opioid use disorder.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin have a history of misusing prescription opioids.

Regardless of how a person becomes ensnared in our nation’s ongoing opioid crisis, they are at elevated risk for significant negative outcomes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reported the following opioid stats from 2018:

  • More than 130 people died every day in the U.S. as a result of opioid-related overdose.
  • 10.3 million Americans misused a prescription opioid medication.
  • About 2 million people in the U.S. had opioid use disorder.
  • More than 800,000 Americans used heroin.
  • More than 15,000 Americans died as a result of heroin overdose.

The Opioid Crisis in Sonoma County, CA

According to the government website for Sonoma County, California, drug overdoses are responsible for an average of 44 deaths and 476 emergency room visits every year in the county. Many of these overdoses involve prescription painkillers and other opioids.

An Oct. 9, 2018, article by Laura Hagar Rush of the Sonoma West Times & News painted a disturbing picture of the prevalence and impact of opioid use in Sonoma County:

  • From 2010-2017, the annual number of emergency room visits in Sonoma County, California, that were related to nonheroin opioid overdose increased by 50%.
  • The annual rate of emergency room visits due to opioid use in Sonoma County, California, is 80% higher than California’s statewide rate.
  • In 2017, more than 399,000 opioid prescriptions were filled in Sonoma County, California, which has a population of just over 500,000 people.

In addition to featuring the opioid stats above, Hagar Rush’s article also revealed that opioid overdose is the leading cause of death among Sonoma County residents ages 20-50.

Signs That You or a Loved One May Have a Problem

The following are among the more common signs that a person may have become addicted to opioids:

  • Visiting multiple doctors in an illicit attempt to acquire multiple prescriptions for opioids
  • Attempting to borrow or steal opioids that have been prescribed to someone else
  • Finding it difficult or impossible to get through the day without using opioids
  • Experiencing physical and psychological distress when unable to use opioids
  • Lying or otherwise acting deceptively about the amount and frequency of your opioid use
  • Using opioids when it is clearly dangerous to do so, such as prior to driving a car or in combination with alcohol or other drugs
  • Continuing to use opioids even after experiencing negative outcomes as a result of previous use

Finding Opioid Addiction Help for Yourself or a Loved One

The first step in getting effective help for opioid addiction is to complete a thorough assessment and receive a proper diagnosis from a qualified professional. Once you are sure that you or your loved one is struggling with opioid use disorder, you can evaluate the various treatment options that are available to you.

It is important to understand that there is no single perfect method for treating opioid addiction. When you’re evaluating your options, you will want to focus on finding the facility or treatment program that seems to best meet your specific needs. Factors such as the nature and severity of the opioid addiction, your treatment history, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders can influence which levels and types of opioid addiction treatment are right for you.
If you have questions about getting opioid addiction help for yourself or a loved one, contact Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab today. A friendly and knowledgeable member of our team is available 24/7 to answer all your questions and help you make the most informed decision.