The United States has witnessed a substantial increase in the prevalence of synthetic substances known as opioids over the past couple of decades. Despite the verified benefits these drugs have for individuals dealing with chronic pain, their over-prescription within the medical community has been a leading contributor in the rise of the opioid epidemic. Specifically, the role that both doctors and major drug companies (mainly Purdue Pharma) have played in advocating for the continued use of OxyContin and other narcotics like it, is crucial to understanding how this societal problem has evolved. In the United States, deaths linked to opioid analgesics increased from 4,041 in 1999 to 14,459 in 2007 (Dhalla, Juurlink, & Navindra, 2011). As the issue garners more attention from the general public, the search for possible solutions to tackle the opioid crisis continues to be a major theme behind some of the recent policies of the state and the federal government.
While the intake of an analgesic such as OxyContin isn’t necessarily detrimental to the overall health of an individual, the medical community’s willingness to overprescribe these substances can lead to severe consequences for those living in smaller rural areas. Patients with prescriptions can often become dependent on those opioids, eventually leading them down a dangerous path to addiction and possibly even overdose. By 2017, 11.4 million people had misused prescription painkillers and an additional 2.1 million were recognized as having an opioid use disorder (Benson, Kuehn, & Weirich, 2019). In order to combat these excessive drug abuse rates, many states have implemented strategies that inform the general public about the dangers of opioids and embrace the use of rehabilitation programs; while also providing further restrictions for those doctors/drug companies that spread misinformation about opioid use.
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