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Understanding the Opiate Epidemic

August 10, 2016

Currently, the United States faces a major healthcare crisis—a crisis that revolves around opiate addiction. The Center for Disease Control reports some staggering, sobering numbers: In 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than in any other year on record—and a majority of those deaths were linked to opiates.

“And since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled,” the CDC continues. “From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”

Grave as those these figures may be, they don’t represent the full spectrum of the problem: The bottom line is that more and more Americans are becoming addicted to opiates, with opiate addiction now a major problem across races, genders, age groups, and income levels. Even Congress has weighed this problem and passed legislation seeking to combat it, with President Obama calling for still more resources.

What are opiates, though? Most basically, they are drugs that are derived in some way from opium, which is made from poppies. Opiates relieve pain, reducing the intensity of pain signals that are sent to the brain. In fact, many of the most powerful prescription painkillers are opiates. Sadly, even these well-intentioned drugs can become addictive, especially when used contrary to a doctor’s orders. Meanwhile, opiate addiction can also encompass such illegal narcotics as heroin, an even harder, more potent opiate.

Opiates can quickly create strong mental and physical dependence, and in time opiate addiction can be lethal. The good news is that, for as serious as this epidemic is, there are always avenues open for healing and recovery. Seeking addiction treatment for opiate abuse can provide lasting freedom, and a life of wholeness. If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate use, contact a treatment center right away.

Have you known anyone who has struggled with opiate addiction? Share your story with us.

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