The Opioid Crisis – Insane Stats Show Depths of Despair
opioid crisis

The deadly opioid crisis is taking an insane amount of lives and is even more challenging than recovery from alcohol use disorder, according to the results of the first US national study on the opioid problem.

At its peak, the opioid crisis has taken up to 192 lives a day.

The majority of fatalities have been men who have died at three times the rate of women.

The study found that more resources are now required for the recovery from opioid use disorder than even alcoholism, an issue which affects one in eight Americans according to some studies.

Another study has found that young people (18-35) are disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis and that one in three young adults receive medication for opioid use disorder within 12 months of a non-fatal opioid overdose.

Anxiety Behind Opioid Crisis

Yet another study has argued that opioids are an effective tool in ‘masking’ deeply held fears, but with skyrocketing opioid addiction, mass fatalities due to overuse, as well as the issue of masking yet never confronting and overcoming fear, are they really worth it?

The latest study stated that one of the prime causes of anxiety disorders is the inability to overcome the fear for certain contexts when they no longer apply, however, attempts to facilitate this process of overcoming fear have culminated in the discovery that certain opioid compounds, called delta opioid receptor (DOP) agonists, assist in masking fear memory.

Given the nature of the study, one may question where the funding came from for such a pro-opioid article given recent issues.

According to 2017 figures, the US holds 45% of the global pharma market and it is “the world’s most important national market”, grossing around $446 billion per year.

The complexity of the issue deepens when one considers how effective opioids actually are at negating fear, yet legal medication is also being proven to be exceptionally addictive, as evidenced in world-renowned psychotherapist Dr Jordan Peterson’s highly reported addiction to benzodiazepines (see below).

Suicides & OD’s have Doubled in the U.S.

Suicides and drug overdoses kill American adults at twice the rate today as they did just 17 years ago, and opioids are a key contributor to that rise, according to a new review and analysis by the University of Michigan.

Using data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases, the researchers show that the sheer number of deaths from suicides and unintentional overdoses together rose from 41,364 in the year 2000 to 110,749 in 2017.

Dr Amy Bohnert was part of the research team and said: “Unlike other common causes of death, overdose and suicide deaths have increased over the last 15 years in the United States.

“This pattern, along with overlap in the factors that increase risk for each [legal and illegal drugs, life stressors], support the idea that they are related problems and the increases are due to shared fundamental causes.”

The figures continue to make grim reading for the state of health in the US, as well as drawing criticism from various fields regarding the easy accessibility of opioids in the system.

Opioids to Carry Warning in UK

After colossal opioid addiction figures from the US, the UK is to implement an addiction warning on all opioid medicines.

Despite the move, critics state that a warning will not solve the underlying crisis.

Around 12 million Americans are thought to be addicted to opioids, and 2018 saw a record number of deaths due to opioid addiction.

The UK is among the biggest consumers of opioids in Europe, yet while the drugs are effective for acute emergency pain, in 90% of long-term chronic pain cases, they do not even work.

The prescription opioid crisis in the US is now so severe that in 2017 the country’s Department of Health declared a national emergency.

A Method to End the Opioid Crisis?

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, USA, have shown they can block receptors in the brain responsible for the emotional components of pain and restore motivation – such findings could lay the groundwork for developing new, less addictive approaches to pain treatment.

“We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and the euphoria associated with opioids is a major driver of opioid dependence,” said senior investigator Jose Moron-Concepcion, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, of neuroscience and of psychiatry.

“By targeting the emotional aspects of pain, we hope to make pain less debilitating so that patients won’t crave the emotional high they get from opioids.”

Opioid painkillers, such as morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl, target receptors on brain cells called mu opioid receptors.

In contrast, the Washington University researchers studied kappa opioid receptors, which operate very differently.

Activating the kappa receptor makes people feel depressed, sad and unmotivated.

So Moron-Concepcion and his colleagues at the Washington University Pain Center thought that by blocking those receptors, they also might dampen the negative emotions associated with pain.


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