Obsessing Over Opioids


Aida McClatchy

78 people die each day due to the effects of an opioid overdose.

Keely Menyhart , Staff Reporter

No one is surprised when a famous actor’s name is flashed across their TV screen notifying them about the celebrity’s untimely death due to a drug overdose. 

It has become a common occurrence these days and kids are growing up with the normalcy of prescription drug addictions.

In the United States, there have been many drug epidemics that have flowed through the veins of citizens. One has struck a chord in social media and the press recently.  Opioids have been responsible for more than 70,237 deaths in the US since 2017, according to the Center for Disease Control. These painkillers have impacted everybody from families, teenagers and medical professionals through their unregulated, misguided use.  

Opioids like Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, and Fentanyl are just a few common names of drugs that are being used to combat pain on extreme levels in hospitals and in small doses after a procedure. The recent influx of recreational as well as legitimate medical use has coaxed countless debates about the epidemic throughout the entire nation. 

Dr. Danny Redman is an ER physician and has to deal with this growing crisis every day during his work. 

“Overall it taxes hospitals. They have seen a huge amount of people being checked in with this addiction and it has changed the way hospitals deal with this issue,” said Dr. Redman.

Recently teenagers’ use has declined but is still extremely prominent. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, in 2015 about 122,000 adolescents were addicted to the nonmedical use of prescription medication. The US has seen that most teenagers, after becoming addicted to opioids have a higher risk of using drugs such as heroin. 

“There have been times when during a shift, within three to four hours, we have had around 20 overdose victims admitted to the hospital,” Said Dr. Redman. “The opioid crisis has hit mainly a spectrum of people and not just one age group, there have been quite a few teenagers being affected.”

Lately, a new medication has been introduced, that specifically reverses the effects that occur during an opioid overdose. Naloxone (Narcan), has been developed exclusively to save the lives of these victims. This drug reverses the physical effects on a person’s body while overdosing. 

”Mostly when there is a patient that is dealing with an opioid addiction they will come in unconscious and after administering a drug to reverse what has happened to them. They will wake up screaming that they want to leave, so there have been cases where I have had to watch a patient for a couple hours to make sure that they are okay. Once the drug is out of their system I am able to send them home,” said Dr. Redman.

Doctors have to deal with the unfortunate circumstance of getting a patient too late after the drugs have fully entered their system and put their body into a type of shock. It is very rare that someone survives after entering into that stage. 

“The ones that are found late (after overdosing) are sad cases. A lot of times if they wake up and go into the care unit and they are not the same afterward, they aren’t the same kind of person that they were before,” said Dr. Redman.

Hundreds of beloved celebrities have died due to painkillers and dangerous drug addictions causing growing awareness around these drug-addicted deaths.

One example includes Heath Ledger, the star of 10 Things I Hate About You and Dark Knight, who died in 2008 from an overdose on Oxycontin and Vicodin. Legendary singer, Prince, died in 2016 due to a painkiller overdose on a drug that he used for his chronic pain. Well known actor Cory Monteith, from the hit television series Glee, died from an overdose of heroin mixed with alcohol in 2013. 

More and more people are being affected by this terrible epidemic that has struck the United States. The youth population is being raised in a country that has had to deal with prescription drug-related issues, and more adolescents are being taken from the world too soon due to situations such as given a pill at a party that is laced with fentanyl and dying hours later. 

Along with the added risk of these dangerous drugs riddling the streets, the restrictions have given many people who struggle with chronic pain issues a more difficult time acquiring the medications they need. 

With the new laws against the distribution of opioids from licensed physicians, anyone that has major nerve damage or a condition that causes them debilitating pain are having a harder time getting the medication that they need. 

Companies are now only allowed to give patients about three to four days worth of the medication. This has caused issues for people who are truly struggling day to day. 

Many doctors have had to deal with this crisis and have thought of ways to improve society’s way of coping with the epidemic.

“The main thing is to educate young kids and even some adults, to make sure that people do as much as possible to stay away from drugs altogether. The best thing is to stay away from those drugs because no individual knows their reaction to it and it could be negative and seriously impact your life,” said Dr. Redman

Where class use to be the distinction for drug abuse, illegal opioid use has leveled the playing field. No longer does privilege protect someone.