North Florida Is Not Immune to the Opioid Overdose Crisis

April 11,2019

The misuse of opioids and addiction to the prescription pain relievers and heroin is a serious national crisis that is also having a huge affect on many North Florida residents and families. When the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, treatments, and criminal justice involvement are accounted for each year, the United States is faced with a $78.5 billion a year economic burden.

Unfortunately, none of our North Florida communities have been spared from the opioid crisis or the tragic consequences of an estimated 700 drug overdoses each year. Duval County ranks number one for fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) deaths per capita and Health Department data ranks Jacksonville among the worst in Florida for babies born addicted to opiate drugs.

Latest Statistics on Opioid Crisis in America

According to a revised 2019 article by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the misuse and addiction to opioids is a major crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Listed below are some of the shocking statistics:

  • More than 130 people in the United States die every day due to overdosing opioids.
  • Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent in forty-five states from July 2016 through September 2017.
  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54 percent in sixteen states.
  • 80 percent of heroin users first misused opioids.
  • 8 to 12 percent of people who use opioids develop a use disorder.
  • 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse the drugs.
  • 4 to 6 percent of the patients who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • 47,000 Americans died in 2017 due to an opioid overdose.
  • 7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders due to prescription opioid pain relievers.

Morphine is the precursor to all other opioids, including narcotic painkillers like codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percocet & Oxycontin), merperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, and fentanyl.  

How Could Millions of Americans Become Addicted to a Dangerous Drug?

Isn't this a drug that's been around for centuries? For starters, heroin, morphine and other opiates originated with the same opium poppy plant. Opium use was well documented in ancient Mesopotamia and cultivation of the plant dates back even further. Often referred to as "the Joy Plant", ancient societies used opium to help people sleep and relieve pain. By the late 19th century, more than 400,000 Civil War veterans were addicted to morphine, an opiate drug specifically developed to be a less addictive form of opium.

After centuries of failed attempts to produce a non-addictive form of the pain reliever, the pharmaceutical industry reassured the medical community in the late 1990s that patients would not become addicted to the newer prescription opioid pain relievers -- a move that many equate to asking a mouse to watch the cheese. Even the latest oxycodone derivative (oxycontin) was reported to be an effective option when taken as prescribed. Finally, worldwide attention has turned to developing safe, effective, non-addictive strategies to manage chronic pain. Until then, our nation's doctors have the challenging task of helping patients manage chronic pain while pharmacies reduce their inventories of opioid drugs.

Helping to End Addiction Long-Term

Last year at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the Director of the National Institute of Health, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the agency's launch of HEAL. The Helping to End Addiction Long-term initiative is an aggressive effort on the part of multiple agencies to speed solutions for the national opioid overdose crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 2 million people in the U.S. abuse prescription (opioid) pain pills and another 1/2 million are addicted to heroin. Fortunately, the upsurge in opiate abuse over the past decade has many healthcare and government officials declaring the problem to be an epidemic in need of immediate attention to find the solutions to both curb current abuse of the opioids while working to overturn the profound effects that opiate addiction has on our society.

If you or someone you love is struggling with pain management, it is time to speak with a board-certified physician about your treatment options. Here at PrimeMED, we've been helping patients heal, rehab, and recover for decades. Don't take chances with your long-term health, contact PrimeMED at 904.269.0500 to schedule an appointment at our Jacksonville, Orange Park or St. Augustine primary care facility.