vote on everything
Weird History
31.1k readers

How Prescriptions In The 1980s Sparked The Worst Drug Crisis In US History

Updated 6 Aug 2018 31.1k views15 items

In 2016, an estimated 63,600 people in the United States died from drug overdoses. Around 66% of those deaths involved opioid painkillers - "alternative heroin," including a dangerous synthetic version called fentanyl - as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The statistic alarmed the public, yet only confirmed the emotional and psychological pain already experienced by the victims and their families.

It also served as a wake-up call to government leadership, which had previously tied the situation to illicit activity and swept it under the rug of stigma. But it proved the US had a significant problem; the country's opioid crisis has become the worst drug epidemic in American history.

Opioid painkillers are helpful for people who experience chronic pain, whether due to illness or influenced by their profession; unfortunately, these drugs may also lead to severe addiction. Medical professionals, pharmaceutical lobbies, and politicians have all played a role, but the crisis remains everybody's problem, affecting people of every race and income level.

The US opioid epidemic began when prescription painkillers debuted in the 1980s and became mass-marketed by pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s. However, using opioids to fight pain dates back to ancient times. Poppy plant derivations include morphine, heroin, and painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin. When counterfeit synthetics began replacing pure opium, the situation worsened.

Banning these drugs isn't a viable option for thousands of people who live with debilitating physical pain. This epidemic is complicated due to many factors and the lack of easy answers, but considering the opioid epidemic statistics surge every year, the US needs a solution soon.

Photo: 
PopularHistoryAmericaUS HistoryMedicineWeird History