The Opioid Crisis
By Alex Long
Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Opioid drugs bind to opioid receptors and reduce the sending of pain messages to the brain, thus reducing pain. When asked, a surprising amount of Glenelg students did not know what opioids are. Even more surprising is that out of the students who knew what opioids are, few could list drugs that fall under the opioid class. Opioids include a variety of drugs ranging from prescription drugs like Oxycodone and Morphine to illicit drugs like Heroin. It was surprising that most people were uninformed about opioids since ABC News named Baltimore as The Heroin capital of the United States.
According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Heroin overdoses have increased from 399 to 748 deaths between 2007 and 2015. Even more alarming is the fact that Fentanyl deaths (an up and coming opiate) have increased from just 26 deaths in 2007 to 340 deaths in 2015. In fact, opioid abuse has become such a problem in Maryland that Governor Hogan has recently implemented a Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force. The goal of the task force as stated by the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland is to, “Bring together all of the stakeholders in order to come up with a plan to tackle this emergency.” The extent of the epidemic became clear to me when a freshman recalled a recent trip to Baltimore when he, “Found a baggy of pills.” How is it possible that in a state where 41% of people know somebody who was directly affected by Heroin, most students don't even know that Heroin is an Opioid? The answer is simple: we are uninformed. Junior, Allyson Kim, said, “I had no idea that there was even an epidemic in Maryland.” This is concerning as Maryland has such a big problem controlling opioid use and it is important to know what is going on within the community.
Today, most doctors are very careful about prescribing highly addictive medicines, such as painkillers. However it wasn't always like this. It all began 30 or so years ago. Well meaning doctors would give out painkillers like candy on Halloween. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a judge found that a psychiatrist in Maryland continuously prescribed addictive medication to a struggling addict. The patient later turned up unconscious in a hospital bathroom with a syringe and 545 pills. Doctors would write new prescriptions for “lost pills” or if patients needed an “early refill”. Then when prescriptions became less accessible, people turned to illicit drugs like Heroin, thus beginning the crisis.
The great rise of drug related deaths in Maryland could be due in part to drugs like Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a stronger, cheaper alternative to Heroin that is being laced with Heroin. Addicts take what they think is their usual amount and end up overdosing because Fentanyl is a much stronger drug than they are used to. It seems as if the numbers of overdoses and hospitalizations is growing exponentially, and everyone is left with the question, where does it end?
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YANG, CARTER M. "Part I: Baltimore Is the U.S. Heroin Capital." ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
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