Opioid drug use has become an epidemic in the United States, with close to 15,000 deaths attributed to prescription drug use in 2015.
Last year, the Governors’ Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse reported the use of heroin and other opiates as the number one health crisis in New Jersey, and that is not the only state suffering. Local law officials across the country continue to raise the alarm about the loss of life due to opiate abuse. Faced with this nationwide problem, the Obama administration announced in October, 2015, that it will take steps to increase access to drug treatment and expand the training of doctors who prescribe opiate painkillers.
Much of the focus of the discussion was on treating drug abuse as an illness, not a crime.
The Obama administration set forth a $133 million budget to prevent over-prescribing, increase the amount of data collected, expand access to Naloxone (the drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose), and tighten the rules for prescribing opiate pain killers. Obama is also pushing that The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to treat addiction like any other medical condition.
The misuse of opioid painkillers has led to a spike in heroin abuse.
On the street, Oxycodone can go for $20 to $30 per pill, forcing people addicted to it to find a cheaper route—heroin. More and more police departments and first responders across the country are receiving training on how to administer Naloxone to save lives.
There has also been a shift in the demographics of opioid users. After Vietnam, more than 80% of people with opioid addictions began by using heroin. In the 2000’s, 75% of people addicted to opiates began with prescription pain pills.