People working in healthcare and medical research have been warning us of the grave cost of the opioid epidemic in the country, and a new report brings even severe facts to the surface. A recent bipartisan congressional report released last Tuesday states overdose deaths, majorly caused by synthetic opioids, costs the US $1 trillion and more than 100,000 lives, a year.
Studies have been going on the reason, market, usage, and many other important factors that all contribute towards the growing opioid epidemic every year. This congressional report is however a deeper look into the matter through the lens of rehabilitation and addressing physical and mental health issues that addicts, intentional or unintentional, face.
The report states, “Whether measured in lives or in dollars, the United States’ drug overdose epidemic should shock everyone. It is unacceptable.”
The increasing number of overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids, especially the extremely dangerous fentanyl, has increased at an alarming rate over the years. From 44,000 deaths in 2013 to over 100,000 deaths in 2021, the crisis has come not even close to becoming governable.
One of the main reasons behind the huge increase in overdose deaths is fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid so dangerous, a pinch of it is enough to kill an elephant. An extremely heartbreaking and complex part of the deaths caused by it is the fact that the majority of people who are consuming fentanyl are not even aware they are doing it.
Comedian and political commentator, Hasan Minhaj explains the crisis in an extremely comprehensive episode of his 2019 Netflix show ‘Patriot Act’ titled ‘America’s Deadliest Drug: Fentanyl’. Minhaj explains Fentanyl and its use as the third wave of the opioid crisis, in which most people are consuming it unknowingly, laced with other drugs they are taking.
Apart from the illegal buying and selling of this drug that is causing the deaths, there is a huge number of legal prescriptions, patients with not as severe pain, are getting from doctors. This is because the regulation that was supposed to be carried out by the FDA, got outsourced to McKesson by pharmaceutical companies, that themselves is pharmaceutical distributor, causing a very huge conflict of interest. Therefore, the epidemic of overdose deaths falls on both the illegal and legal trade of the drug, instead of just the illegal side.
As the report also states, “Authorities are largely flying blind,” adding, “The United States does not have the data infrastructure to adequately measure the amount of illegally manufactured synthetic opioids consumed in the United States or the number of people who use them.”