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The Opioid Crisis Behind the Screen

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

By Maria Gabriela Bolivar Gomez

Photo Credit to Pexels

Drugs have become normalized within our American society. There are softer, over-the-counter drugs like caffeine and Tylenol that many consume as many as three times a day without realizing they are addicted to it. This also includes the most socially accepted drug, alcohol. Students are often peer pressured into drinking to not be “boring.”

Libertad Gonzalez Denis, a senior majoring in biology, said she finds these efforts to be “misleading.”

“It makes the use of drugs seem more available and as a normal thing rather than something that is bad for your health. Since it is advertised for a good time, it takes away the purpose to warn others of the misuse the drug itself.”

According to the International Online Medical Council (IOMC), drugs are any chemical substances that when consumed cause a change in an organism's physiology or psychology. Most of the time, drugs are prescribed by doctors to treat diseases and illnesses.

Today, the main threats to the U.S. are harder drugs plaguing our communities called opioids.

Photo Credit to Wikipedia

Opioids are drugs that reduce or alleviate pain. The illegal drug heroin is considered an opioid, just like morphine and OxyContin. The biggest producer of OxyContin is Purdue Pharma, which has faced multiple lawsuits naming them responsible for the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

It's portrayals like Hulu’s series “Dopesick” that fights the good fight and reflects how areas of the country are negatively impacted by prescription drug addictions. This show is set in a low to middle-class neighborhood in Virginia where the majority of the people work in the mines, a physically demanding job that leaves many workers with a dependency on pain relief drugs.

This mini-series, which debuted fall of 2021, focuses on the opioid crisis in America, specifically on OxyContin. For the people of Clifton Forge, each penny is worth their ticket out to a better future. For them, that means taking sick days out of work is not affordable. Because of their desperation and disadvantages from their low economic status, they would take anything from their local physicians to feel better for work the next day.

The show uncovers another layer behind the local doctor who was blindly sold on the new pain relief drug approved by the FDA with an apparent one percent likelihood of addiction, promising that it will take away any pain.

The opioid crisis has seen three main waves. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first came in the ‘90s with the increase of prescribed opioids, which has only continued to rise to this day. The second wave happened in 2010 with the increase of heroin overdoses. The last one started in 2013 with the increase of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.

Photo Credit to Pexels

To grasp a better idea of how bad the opioids crisis has become, let’s discuss the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) numbers showing an increase over the past 12 years. In 2010, 21,088 people died from an opioid overdose. The number then continued to increase to 47,600 deaths in 2017, then to 68,630 deaths in 2020.

Fentanyl death rates continue to be concerning. Per the National Safety Council (NSC), fentanyl overdoses account for 53,480 deaths in the country during 2020.

According to the county’s report, fentanyl was involved in 44 percent of all opioid overdoses in Miami-Dade in 2017. Fast forward to 2022, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported nearly 2,000 fatal overdoses in Florida so far, mainly in central Florida.

The Pains of Addiction

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported people take drugs to feel good and get a feeling of euphoria from their “demons.” Drug use is common among people with anxiety and depression. And with naïve curiosity and social and academic pressures, drug abuse often starts with teens.

Photo Credit to Pexels

Adderall, for example, is commonly abused by college students for better performance and focus. It was originally created and prescribed for children, teens, and young adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

The NIH said it takes more than a strong will to overcome drug addiction. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not as simple as just stopping, staying away from drugs, and never looking back.

Drug consumption can alter the brain making it harder to quit. They flood the brain with dopamine, the “reward” chemical. This hormone is naturally released when doing things we love, like eating our favorite food or spending quality time with loved ones. But it’s when this reward response is associated with drugs, this dangerous addiction hooks into your psychological and physical makeup.

The NIH also discusses determining factors that make an addict. The first one mentioned is biology – your genes. If consumers have other conditions, such as mental disorders, they have a higher likelihood of becoming addicted.

Secondly, the interactive environment crucial in the shaping of personality is another determinant for consumers. If they don’t have a good family structure, if they cave into social pressures, if they are victims of psychological or physical abuse or even have a low economic status - these are factors that can contribute to the need for an escape to feel “better” and “good.”

The NIH also found a correlation in age. The younger someone is when consuming drugs, the more likely they are to develop a life-threatening addiction.

Denis said she did not know anything regarding the opioid crisis.

But considering hardships for Miami students today, young adults should be made aware of this threat to end the cycle and eradicate the drugs feeding off weaknesses.

Photo Credit to Pexels

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