A Columbia Uni opioid expert explains America’s rising epidemic [PART 1]

By Bowen Xiao

America’s nationwide opioid epidemic is continuing to reach new heights.

Senate republicans recently added $45 billion to their health care bill, in part to persuade more republicans to unite on the bill. This number may still change in the future as discussions continue.

Everyday 91 americans die from an opioid related overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Columbia University opioid expert and associate professor of epidemiology Silvia Martins, MD, PhD said younger adults have seen the biggest increase in opioid use.  

“The group where we’re seeing the highest increases in [opioid] use are younger adults, so adults ages 18 to 29 for both legal and illegal opioids we’re we have seen higher increases in the past year.”

Martins and her team have been researching national opioid databases for over 10 years and says that the opioid epidemic started to increase in the mid 90s, where pharmaceutical industries promoted painkillers.

In 2015 alone, more than 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, according to the National Institute of Drug abuse (NIH).

In the same year, NIH estimated that 2 million Americans suffered from some type of substance abuse disorder related to prescription opioids.

“There was a huge increase in opioid prescribing in the mid 90s here in the us primarily because big pharma was making the case that pain was being under-treated here in the U.S. So we see that at the same time legitimate opioid prescribing was increasing, opioid abuse also started to increase.”

In recent years more opioid addicted users have converted to heroin, when their pills get harder to access.

Even though the prevalence of prescription opioid use has flattened in most age groups in the past few years, according to Martins many have converted to heroin use instead.

“We have seen people transitioning from non-medical opioid use to heroin use in the past few years, so we are seeing an increase in heroin use and in overdoses where heroin use is involved,” she said.

Some agencies like the CDC have issued guidelines for safe opioid prescribing, in order to limit the number of pills. But the number of people affected by opioids remains a worrying statistic for America.

Bowen Xiao, NTD news.

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