Saturday, July 13, 2024

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Opioid Crisis in America

While opioids in the form of recreational drugs have been around for centuries, it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that opioid use was unlocked as a large-scale medicinal way to treat pain or as a surgical intervention. This timing proved fateful for the United States specifically and led to a long history of opioid use, and misuse, in this country.

Historical Intervention

Opioid usage was not new to the landscape during the time of the American Civil War, but the conflict boosted it’s prevalence. Opioids had been used in both sides of the American Revolution and many of the country’s founding fathers used various opioid applications for pain relief. During the Civil War, the occasional use turned into a constant need. According to the Smithsonian, over 10 million opioid pills were issued to the soldiers on the Union side of the war alone. This does not include additional powders and tinctures. Once the hypodermic syringe was introduced in 1856, opioids were being subcutaneously injected for many maladies and pains. 

Menstrual cramps, morning sickness, dysentery, nervousness, and many more conditions were all prescribed one solution, opioids. At the turn of the last century, doctors began to realize their over reliance on prescribing this numbing agent and decided they should curb their willingness to prescribe. 

Use and Abuse

With legal methods of gaining pain relief more and more difficult to find, addicted members of the public turned to drug dens, dealers, and to increasingly false stories about pain in order to gain access to the opioids they developed reliance on. The largest components that make opioids dangerous lies in how they treat pain. According to, “Opioids bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting pain signals. They also activate reward areas of the brain by releasing the hormone dopamine, creating a feeling of euphoria or a ‘high.’” The same article goes on to comment about how many users of opioids find it difficult to treat their pain with the same dosage, growing more and more reliant on larger amounts to dull the symptoms they are experiencing. Each time the drug is encountered, a cycle of abuse escalates, as more drugs are needed to experience the same euphoria and pain relief. 

The misuse is not limited to decades past or shady drug deals on the corner, however. A recent study by the CDC found that 2.1 million Americans have a use disorder of opioids specifically as recently as 2016. Most of those obtained drugs from a relative or friend (53%) or from a healthcare provider, either through prescription or by stealing (37.5%).

Restriction and Regulation

Restrictions have been in place on certain opioids and over prescribing those for more than a century. The past couple of years have seen state and federal courts addressing some of these issues to regulate distribution even further. Between studies on the safety of new drugs on the market, increasing educational programs in numerous outlets, and the frequency with which prescriptions can be filled; drug-seeking behavior is becoming more difficult. That being said, there is still a number of people within the population that either need the help to move from drug addiction, need help with their chronic pain, or, in some cases, both circumstances apply. 

Going Forward

Republic Pain Specialists want to completely eliminate the public’s need and desire for opioids on a regular basis. Our methods focus on non-medicinal pain intervention practices to allow full functionality of our patients without the risk of debilitating addiction. To learn more about how to treat your pain or to seek options that will help reduce or get rid of this reliance, contact us today. We can work to discover the source of your pain and discuss multiple options for treatment.




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