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Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in America

A look at the history of the opioid crisis

In 2016, drug overdoses killed close to 64,000 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50 in the U.S. One substance that people in the U.S. are especially dying from is opioids. This is because the U.S. is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Therefore, the path to where we are now is longer, and more involved, than many people might know. To better understand the path that the U.S. is on now, we must first start understanding the opioid epidemic itself.

Know your substance: opioid vs. opiate

There is a difference between an opioid and an opiate. Opiates are derived from the natural opium poppy plant. Opiates have been used as painkillers for centuries. The most commonly-used opiates in America include:

  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin

Opiates are natural. Thus, people derive opiates such as heroin and opium from their natural form. Although natural, people can also manufacture opiates into other substances such as codeine or morphine.

Opioids are entirely or partially synthetic. Opioids are very powerful. The most famous opioid is OxyContin. This is because OxyContin is often misused and has thus, contributed greatly to the current opioid epidemic. Vicodin, Dilaudid, Demerol, Percocet, and, of course, fentanyl are other well-known opioids that have contributed to the opioid crisis. Methadone is a common opioid that detox patients take to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms.

Why opioid addiction has increased so dramatically

The opioid epidemic in this country could have been avoided. Still, there are a variety of reasons why the epidemic is occurring. Understanding the opioid epidemic is important because it will help people better understand what they need out of their opioid addiction treatment.  

Opioids were designed to treat pain. The most popular pain-relieving opioid in history is OxyContin. This is because of a marketing campaign in the New Yorker “claiming that the drug’s delayed-release mechanism could limit the risk of addiction.” Thus, doctors across the country used to prescribe their patients OxyContin at an excessive rate. 

OxyContin is a brand-name drug that uses oxycodone as its base. Oxycodone is much more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is another powerful synthetic drug. It was originally designed for palliative care for patients with terminal cancer. 

Fentanyl has been described as between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine. The difference in strength between fentanyl and heroin is even higher. The doctors that prescribed OxyContin and fentanyl to patients at excessive rates may or may not have truly understood the risks associated with the drugs.

The Opioid Epidemic

(photo credit: New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory / STAT)

Heroin Epidemic in PA and the U.S.

Heroin is a controlled substance and illicit opiate. It is far less expensive than prescription opioids, and in some cases, far easier to obtain. It is also weaker than many of the prescription pain killers on the market. This means that a person will need to use more heroin to experience the same effects that they would while using many prescription opioids. 

In many cases, people who are prescribed opioids will turn to heroin if they no longer have access to opioids, or can longer long afford, their prescription drugs. Because of this, there is a heroin epidemic in PA and the U.S. 

These are just some of the reasons why there has been such a drastic increase in opioid and opiate addiction. An epidemic such as the opioid one that is occurring today isn’t just about one type of addict or one mitigating factor. It has spread to every corner of the country. Thus, it affects every type of person you know from your neighbor to his father, to his grandmother, the pizza delivery guy, the local dentist, the mail carrier, the teacher, the student, and the school administrator. No one is immune from the risks.

America is fighting back

If all of this information seems dire, be hopeful. Americans that are understanding the opioid epidemic are doing what they do best, rallying around the cause. Insurance companies are refusing to cover prescription opioids. States are suing the pharmaceutical companies for their role in the disbursement and advertising of the drugs. 

Local communities are raising funds and awareness for free clinics. Doctors are refusing to prescribe the drugs. 

Together, Americans will fight this epidemic. Americans will also find a way to help those who have suffered so much because of the opioid epidemic.

You are not alone in the struggle against opioid addiction

The recovery process from opioid addiction can be difficult. That’s why it’s important for each individual with opioid addiction to have a team around that has an understanding of the opioid epidemic. The team of people that surround recovering opioid addicts should also have an understanding of the needs of the people that they are supporting.

Receive Treatment for Opioid Addictions Here At Little Creek Recovery

Here at Little Creek Lodge in Pennsylvania, we have a great understanding of the opioid epidemic and the heroin epidemic in PA. That’s why we offer heroin and opioid addiction treatment programs and strategies that are designed to empower our patients and get them to overcome their addictions once and for all. 

Here at Little Creek, we also offer many other drug addiction treatment programs. Little Creek Recovery specializes in treating addictions in men. Therefore, our inpatient drug addiction treatment programs are for men only. Our outpatient drug addiction treatment programs are co-ed though. Thus, there is some form of heroin, opioid, and many other drug addiction treatment programs for everyone here at Little Creek. 

Our mission here at Little Creek is to build a strong foundation of recovery for our patients while also integrating internalized recovery through therapeutic and 12 step models while also retaining a focus on the spiritual paradigm. That way the minds, bodies, and souls of our patients are treated for their addictions. In the end, this will help our patients be better able to maintain long-term sobriety. 

Here at Little Creek we also make sure to support our patients as much as we can so that they can overcome tough addictions like those to opioids. In an effort to provide such support to our patients we have a sober living facility called Shane’s House that our inpatient patients can stay at if after treatment is over they need help transitioning from addiction treatment to recovery. 

To learn more about our addiction treatment programs, therapies, and services here at Little Creek and all the ways that we help our patients be successful in their recovery, contact us today! Our hope is to help as many people overcome their substance addictions as possible.


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Little Creek Lodge
359 Easton Turnpike
Hamlin, PA 18427