The opiate epidemic is a huge conversation, and one that we’ve discussed on our blog before. What follows is an in depth, three part series written by a renowned integrative medicine physician based in Maine named Dustin Sulak, D.O.He is regarded as an expert on medical cannabis nationally, Dr. Sulak educates medical providers and patients on its clinical use, while continuing to explore the therapeutic potential of this ancient yet emerging medicine.
The United States is in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. How big is this problem? Forty-four people in the United States die every day from prescription opioid overdose; the number increases to 78 every day when we include heroin. Almost 7,000 people are treated in emergency rooms in the United States every day for misuse of a prescription opioid.
In 2010, one in 20 people over the age of 12 used opioid medications non-medically or had used it other than as prescribed. Between 1999 and 2010, the sales of prescription opioids quadrupled, and so did the rate of opioid overdose deaths. Enough opioids were prescribed in 2010 to give a one-month supply of 5mg of hydrocodone every four hours to every adult in the United States.
And since then the problem has only gotten worse. One in three prescriptions filled for opioids are currently being abused. The estimated cost of opioid abuse is $56 billion per year. Baby boomers are four times more likely to abuse opioids than millennials. In terms of geography, the states with the worst opioid addiction problem are in the South. But Maine is following closely behind in rates of opioid prescriptions that are filled.
While America claims only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. We’re using opioids far more than any other country — to the extent that some countries actually have trouble accessing opioids for important reasons like post-surgical or end-of-life treatment. Analgesia can be hard to come by in some Third World countries — while we’re using it all up.
In the United States, nearly 50 percent of people who take opioids for more than 30 days in the first year continue to use opioids for three years or longer. Half of them are being prescribed short-acting opioids, the type that Big Pharma opioid manufacturers say is more likely to lead to addiction and abuse. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. patients are taking opiates in combination with other drugs that are known to make the opioids more dangerous, to make an overdose more likely.
Click here for PART TWO