Serious, chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, represent just a few of the staple diagnoses in developed countries, but few are as stigmatized as addiction. The opioid epidemic is at the forefront of public health issues capturing national attention in the United States, affecting communities from Hollywood to small town USA.
The term opiate is a classification for a drug that contains the highly addictive drug opium, a narcotic derived from the Papaver somniferum poppy plant. Opioids are appealing because the user feels a great sense of euphoria, followed by both decreased pain and increased drowsiness.
Adding to the complexity of this epidemic is the availability of similar, and often illicit, drugs that produce the same euphoric feelings of prescription pain medications. The abuse of, and addiction to, illicit versions of opiates, such as heroin, is growing as regulations and costs make it more difficult to obtain legally prescribed opiates.
It makes sense, then, that the United States consumes 80% of the global opioid supply. Individuals hit hardest by this epidemic are between the ages of 25 to 54, with higher overdose rates seen in non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans or Alaskan Natives. Men die from overdoses at higher rates than women, but that gap is said to be closing.
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