Opioid Addiction: Facts About the Opioid Epidemic

September 21, 2021

Living in the state of Utah, you’ve likely heard about the opioid epidemic. But what do you know about this crisis? Keep reading to learn more.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” Opioids were originally made using opium, a narcotic drug that is prepared from the opium poppy. As science and medicine developed, pharmaceutical companies would find a way to create synthetic opioids that would have similar pain-relieving properties. 

Without fully understanding the long-term effects and addictive properties of opioids, doctors everywhere would begin to prescribe opioids to patients experiencing chronic pain. Pharmaceutical companies would often reassure the medical field that patients wouldn’t become addicted to the prescription drug, but that’s where they were wrong. Unfortunately, as more prescriptions were filled, more people would become addicted to the drug, leading to widespread misuse of the medication, not for the pain relief aspect but instead for the euphoric effect. 

Statistics About the Opioid Epidemic 

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 
  • Opioids were involved in 50,000 deaths in 2019, 73% of which involved synthetic opioids, like fentanyl 
  • Between 21 and 29% of patients prescribed opioids for pain misuse the drug 
  • About 80% of people who use heroin misused prescription drugs in the past
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration states that In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year. Specifically, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers and 745,000 people used heroin.

The Opioid Epidemic in Utah 

Despite the warning of the use of opioids, the opioid epidemic still rages on in Utah. According to Meghan Balough, a violence and injury prevention epidemiologist in the Utah Department of Health, opioid deaths in the state have decreased, and in the past few years, we went from the fourth position in the nation of opioid-related deaths to now the twenty-first position. However, Balough states that “Utah’s improved rating largely reflects the problem in other states that got worse, not that Utah has greatly improved.” 

Balough also warns that opioid addiction often occurs in middle-aged adults who have once been injured and were prescribed opioids as a painkiller. So, if you fit this category and you’ve been prescribed opioids, take them with caution or, even better, speak to your doctor about other options for pain relief medication. 

What We Can Do About the Opioid Epidemic

Health professionals would agree that the epidemic isn’t just the problem of those who become addicts; instead, it will take everyone to beat the issue. We encourage everyone to understand the dangers, signs, and symptoms of opioid addiction. It’s essential that you openly discuss and remove the stigma of addiction with your loved ones. Addiction to any substance is a biological reaction that can happen to anyone. Hence, the best way to beat the opioid epidemic is to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to be aware of the signs of addiction.

Steps Recovery Centers for Those That Struggle with Addiction 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction related to this opioid epidemic, reach out to Steps Recovery Centers. We use proven practices to help our patients find a path to recovery, and we do so by giving them the tools they need to reach success. If you’re in Utah and searching for treatment options for yourself, a friend, or a family member, Steps Recovery Centers may be a place of solace for those battling addiction. We have centers in St. George, Utah Valley, and Salt Lake, all of which have programs specialized for all types of substance abuse in Utah. So contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you or your loved one.

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