The opioid crisis is truly catastrophic at present. The news continues to deliver frightening statistics around the number of deaths it is causing, while experts are lost as to how it can possibly end.
Dr Art Van Zee, a US doctor who has long campaigned and warned people of the dangers of opioids for over two decades recently said how he was unsure how it ends, while various different government schemes in the country have failed to calm the storm.
At present, more than 1,500 Americans die per week from the use of opioids, while every opioid and heroin rehab center is full to the brim, while others in more economically challenged areas simply don’t have the access. And the problem is, it’s a story that is becoming more and more similar all over the world. But why has it become such a problem?
We take a look into the main reasons as to why the opioid crisis has gotten so far out of hand and is delivering such heartbreaking statistics by the day.
Proliferation of Synthetic Opioids
One of the main problems has been that down the years synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have become more accessible to people. The USA is a good example of that and the current Purdue Pharma case, which shows how pharmaceutical companies flooded the market with the drugs and sold it as a general painkiller in one of the nation’s largest ever public health scandals.
That in turn has gotten millions of people legally hooked and contributing to an alarming number of overdose deaths that continues to be problematic not just in the USA, but globally.
Global Supply Chains and Illicit Trade
Then of course there’s the illicit trade, which has spread across borders and been distributed through clandestine networks. The globalisation of the drug trade has made it challenging for individual countries to control the influx of opioids, exacerbating the crisis on an international scale.
While more and more seizures are occuring daily, many of them record hauls, such is the volume of drugs that is being exported and imported, it’s just a drop in the ocean until countries can come together and work as one.
Naturally, the pandemic hasn’t helped matters. The stress caused from the COVID-19 outbreak led to disruptions in healthcare services, as well as increased social isolation, stress, economic challenges and employment struggles, all of which are key contributors to people turning to various drugs as a coping mechanism. This hasn’t just increased opioid problems, but alcohol too.
Prescription Opioid Practices and Overmedicalisation
Despite the many dangers now very well-known, prescription opioid practices still aren’t as stringent as they should be in many parts of their world, which is naturally leading to more people using it for pain management and as a result becoming addicted to the substances.
Reforms are undoubtedly needed globally for this element of the crisis to be fixed and until that happens the number of addiction and overdose cases are only going to increase.
Limited Access to Treatment and Rehabilitation Services
Finally, and hugely problematically, the access to addiction treatment and rehabilitation in many communities just isn’t accessible enough. Given the state of the crisis in so many parts of the world, affordability is one issue, but so are the long waiting lists, inadequate facilities, and shortage of healthcare professionals with expertise in addiction treatment. That’s meaning needs just can’t be met and, unfortunately, as Dr Art Van Zee says, the huge problem is going to continue to rumble on and on.