Understanding the Opioid Epidemic: Preventing Drug Overdose

Apr 12, 2024

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than one million people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2021, 106,699 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States.” Further, opioid drugs were involved in nearly 75% of these overdose deaths. In the last two decades, opioid death rates have only increased annually, informing what is now known as the opioid epidemic. Contrary to what some people believe, each person can take a stand in preventing drug overdose deaths by learning more about the opioid epidemic and encouraging treatment for those who are struggling. 

At Renaissance Ranch, we recognize how the opioid epidemic continues to ravage not only the United States but also nationwide, affecting individuals, families, and entire communities as a result. Despite this, drug overdose can be prevented, and those struggling with addiction can achieve lasting sobriety and recovery. By taking the first step and recognizing one’s need for professional treatment, we can then guide and support clients to long-term healing. 

What Is the Opioid Epidemic?

The current opioid epidemic became what it is through three distinct waves. First, the first wave – which occurred in the late 1990s – began with increased prescribing of opioid drugs. Unfortunately, during this time, there was not yet enough research that addressed the addictive potential of opioids. In addition, doctors and physicians received increased pay as they prescribed more medications to patients. These factors and more contributed to increased opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid addiction. Further, such overprescribing also triggered the first notable rise in overdose deaths involving both natural and semi-synthetic prescription opioids. 

The second wave began in 2010, marked by an increase in illicit opioid use, specifically heroin. It can be assumed that many individuals who developed OUD or opioid addiction as a result of overprescribing during the first wave of the opioid epidemic may have sought out street drugs like heroin in an attempt to ease their cravings or withdrawals. Like the first wave, this wave also triggered rapid increases in overdose deaths. 

Lastly, the third wave began in 2013, characterized by significant increases in the use, abuse, and overdose of synthetic opioids. More specifically, illicitly manufactured fentanyl became an undeniable public concern. 

The Role of Fentanyl In the Current Opioid Epidemic

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is approved for medical use in the treatment of severe pain. Yet, as explained by the CDC, “[M]ost recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl.” Fentanyl is an extremely potent, synthetic opioid drug that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Most often, it is sold and obtained through illegal drug markets. 

Certainly, people do seek out fentanyl for recreational substance abuse. Yet, 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose, making users extremely vulnerable to drug overdose and death. Even more common, however, are individuals who seek out other illicit substances (like cocaine, MDMA, heroin, etc.) from illegal drug markets and receive substances unknowingly contaminated with fentanyl. They may think that they are using a substance safely, only to lose their life at the hands of contaminated drugs. 

Dispelling the Myths About Opioid Abuse and Overdose

To effectively grasp the impact of the opioid epidemic, it is essential to dispel any myths or misconceptions that one may have about substance abuse and overdose. First and foremost, it is necessary to understand that addiction and overdose know no bounds. Nearly everyone from every walk of life has been affected by substance abuse and drug overdose deaths. Accepting personal vulnerability is the first step in protecting oneself and other loved ones from being directly affected. 

Next, many people are under the impression that prescription opioids are safe for one’s health and well-being. While doctors and physicians often take precautions and discuss potential risks with clients when prescribing opioids, it is necessary to understand that all prescriptions have the potential to cause harm. Opioids, specifically, should be used to treat short-term, severe pain. In rare cases, individuals are prescribed opioids to treat long-term pain, though complementary and holistic pain relief methods are heavily encouraged instead. 

Another myth to address is that anyone with an addiction can cease their substance use if they try hard enough. Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that requires professional treatment and a lifelong commitment to sobriety to overcome. Moreover, those who struggle with any type of addiction, but especially OUD, are at an increased risk of unintentional overdose death, which is why it is crucial to encourage participation in professional treatment for those who need help. 

Combatting the Opioid Epidemic With Renaissance Ranch

At Renaissance Ranch, we are dedicated to helping clients overcome all types of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Further, we are passionate about actively combatting the opioid epidemic by guiding and supporting our clients to lasting sobriety and recovery. With a wide range of treatment program options to choose from, we have both the peer and professional support that men need to obtain lasting healing once and for all. 

No one should ever lose their life from a battle with addiction. Consider talking more with loved ones and professionals to learn how to take a stand against the opioid epidemic, today. 

The opioid epidemic continues to impact millions of lives every year. Delaying treatment entry, enabling substance abuse, or otherwise ignoring the signs of a loved one’s addiction can all increase the risk of drug overdose death. The opioid epidemic affects not only those who engage in illicit drug use but also those who use prescription opioids. Protect yourself and your loved ones by encouraging treatment entry and participation and learning more about preventing drug overdose death. At Renaissance Ranch, we can help you or a loved one establish lasting sobriety and recovery from all forms of drug abuse and mental health disorders. Learn more about our treatment center for adult men by calling (801) 308-8898 today.