Why Is The Opiate Crisis In The U.S. Getting Worse?

The opioid crisis, as we know it in the modern age, has been steadily raging since the 1990s, when prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone became available. The crisis then reached a second peak in the early 2010s with the affordable and ample supply of heroin that emerged in the market. Now, in 2022, the opiate crisis is worse than ever. The Department of Health and Human Services reported a 28% increase in drug overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021 bringing the annual number up to over 100,000 deaths. Of these deaths, just over 75,000 of them involved opiates. It seems that despite the best efforts of government programs, media reports, and school education seminars, things are only getting worse for the opiate crisis. It is worth exploring why the opiate crisis in the U.S. is getting worse, to work toward ending it.


The Lasting Effects Of Overprescribing

One of the main reasons why the opiate crisis in the U.S. is getting worse is the continued effects of overprescribing. According to the CDC, the U.S peaked in 2012 with more than 255 million opioid prescriptions being dispensed. This number has fallen over the past 10 years, reaching the lowest recorded point yet in 2020, with roughly 142 million opiate prescriptions. However, the effects of this overprescribing can be seen in today’s record levels of opiate overdoses. Research by John Hopkins shows that it only takes a few weeks for the body to become physically dependent on prescription opioids, well within the time frame for the number of opioid pills doctors used to prescribe for simple surgeries, wisdom tooth removals, and sports injuries. These opiate prescriptions were often the gateway to other opiate use including heroin. While doctors are now prescribing fewer opioids, there is still a long way to go to prevent the opiate crisis from getting even worse in the U.S.


The Rise Of Fentanyl

Though it was first developed in 1959, it has taken until the late 2010s and early 2020s for fentanyl to become one of the main reasons why the opiate crisis in the U.S. is getting worse. As a synthetic opioid, it has become easy to produce, and deadly to consume, as it is 80-100 times more potent than morphine according to the DEA. Fentanyl is showing up everywhere and driving the opiate crisis to get worse and worse. Reports surface every day of cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin that have all been mixed with fentanyl and are causing overdoses. Even prescription pills, which many people consider to be safe though they are highly addictive, have been affected by fentanyl, with many drug labs pressing fentanyl and filler to make fake prescription pills. Fentanyl test strips are becoming widely available and will hopefully help in keeping people informed so the opiate crisis in the U.S. does not get any worse.


Covid-19 Complicated The Opiate Crisis

While for many people, the pandemic feels over, with many cities lifting mask requirements, and very few countries returning to 2020 levels of lockdown, the isolation and stress caused by the pandemic have had lasting effects. To combat these feelings of stress and depression, many people turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms like opioids. Additionally, many people lost their jobs and faced economic troubles during the pandemic, making it even more difficult to cope with life. The immense fear and stress the pandemic caused have only made the opiate crisis worse, and as the world learns to cope with outbreaks, variants, and case spikes, work must be done to ensure that the opiate crisis does not worsen in the U.S.



While the opiate crisis may be getting worse, there are resources for those suffering from opioid dependency. Fritz Clinic of Alabama has long been a leader in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Fritz provides Suboxone treatment, as well as addiction counseling, to help people like you heal from opioid dependency. Call or contact Fritz today to make your first appointment and begin healing.