The Opioid Crisis; what is it, and what is being done?
The current Opioid Crisis happening in the United States is getting bigger and bigger every day. Starting in the 1990s, a time referred to as “the first wave”, pharmaceutical companies assured doctors, as well as the general population, that opioids were safe to use as painkillers. By 2011, the number of opioid prescriptions was as high as 238 million. However, illegal street drugs presented a bigger threat, leaving the growing rate of opioid overdose deaths to go underreported for a long time. “The second wave” came around 2010, when 16,651 people died of opioid overdoses, including 3,036 heroin related deaths. “The third wave” came shortly after the second one. Highly potent synthetic opioids were introduced to the public. In 2016, nearly a third of all drug related deaths included synthetic opioids, which was a 100% rise from the prior year. In 2016 alone, 170,000 people used heroin for the first time, and 40% of opioid related deaths involved a prescription.
In 2006, a CDC (Center for Disease Control) scientist noticed an increase in death by poison, and heard about the increase of overdose deaths via state medical examiners. This prompted the CDC to conduct a study on how to better help the public with these issues. In 2019, the CDC received $475 million for the maintenance of programs they created to help combat opioid addiction. In CDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic, the CDC writes “Programs across CDC are working to prevent opioid overdoses and other opioid-related harms, including opioid use disorder, hepatitis and HIV infections, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.” (CDC, 2019). This shows that the United States government is actively trying to fight against the opioid crisis through methods such as; surveillance and research, implementing supervisory and rehab facilities via communication with individual states, and providing information about the topic and how to stay safe, to the general public.
The epidemic is not only affecting the addicts. Looking at the addicts as people, instead of just statistics, these people have families. Children are left to care for themselves every day. In a New York Times article titled “‘They’re My Safe Place’: Children of Addicted Parents, Raised by Relatives”, it covers how many children are left to their own devices; “From 2010 to 2018, the number of Ohio children placed in kinship homes increased by nearly 140 percent, with a nearly 50 percent surge from 2016 to 2018 alone.” (Levin, 2019). The 2016-2018 increase happening during the previously mentioned “third wave”. The article also goes on to explain how a lot of the kids who are taken from their families are placed in what they call “kinship care”. Kinship care is when the children of addicts are removed from their homes, and placed in the care of family members, close family friends, or even trusted coaches and teachers. This gives the children an opportunity to live a normal life, while allowing them to begin to understand a healthy familial dynamic. Many children living in areas where addictions are prevalent have skewed views of what a nontoxic household should look like. Another article by Dan Levin titled “‘Become My Mom Again’: What It’s Like to Grow Up Amid the Opioid Crisis”, covers the relationship between a 17 year old girl named Layla, and her mother. The article also goes into the general attitude toward school and home lives in the Ohio town. Drew Applegate, an assistant principal at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, Ohio went on to say “In many ways, Portsmouth High is like home for many of these students. They eat breakfast and lunch there, and modern classrooms and computer labs are starkly juxtaposed with laundry facilities. Many students frequently come to school wearing the same, unwashed clothes days in a row, so shelves are stocked with clean garments, along with fresh shampoo, bars of soap and deodorant.” (Levin, 2019). Due to the lack of care, money, and resources that these children face at home, the school is the only place where they can get what they need. Applegate then went on to say “Yet some of the teenagers change back into their own clothes after the final bell rings and the last class ends, “because parents will take new clothes and sell them for drug money,”. Further proving the tragic state that these children’s lives are in.
According to The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request, “For 2019, the Administration projects that Title IV-E foster care maintenance and administrative costs will be at $5.329 billion, an increase from the projected cost of $5.278 billion in 2018. Total costs have been increasing over the past several years due to an increase in foster care placements.” (White House, 2019) What exactly is causing this rise in foster care placements is unknown. Speculators could peg it to general overpopulation, but would most likely agree that the rise in opioid addiction is leaving more and more parents unfit to care for their children.
The opioid crisis is an ever-growing issue in the United States. Children of addicts are exposed to horrific things on the daily, and forced to live lives that nobody should have to live. The government’s efforts to help the situation have been effective, though not nearly as much as they had hoped. Budgets for help efforts have been increased, but will there ever truly be a solution to this problem?