Opioids are everywhere in South Dakota and throughout the United States. With congress, even the president calling out for the need for a strong fight against our current “Opioid Epidemic” it is easy to want to ask the question how did we get here in the first place and is it really as serious as it sounds?
Even since prior to the Civil War, opioids have been utilized for pain relief. As history progressed, opioids became widely known as a miracle drug. They started getting prescribed for things from intense pain all the way to things as insignificant as a common cold! The attitude toward opioids was so casual at the time that Bayer (the company now famous for making Aspirin) even started offering heroin commercially. As the movement of prohibition on alcohol started to grow in popularity and became public policy, the availability of opioids spread across a nation that was still reeling from and trying to recover from the first world war.
Around the mid 1920’s it became clear, however, that there was a real problem with how frequent and pervasive the use of opioids was throughout the country including in the state of South Dakota. The addictive qualities of the drug became clear and soon the acquisition, sale, and distribution of the drug heroin was banned throughout South Dakota and the United States in the middle of the 1920’s.
Decades of Opioid Abuse
Between the 1950’s and 1990’s, addiction to heroin was something that you heard about in association with rock n’ roll and in the celebrity circles as the public watched figures like Hank Williams and Janis Joplin, along with other musicians and artists suffer and fall due to fatal overdose.
With the Vietnam War came a rise in heroin addiction and it was especially prevalent among soldiers. This was true to such a significant degree, that President Nixon called drug addiction “public enemy number one”. Even with such a declaration, the drug spread.
Opioids cause respiratory depression, and even respiratory failure which leads to death. Millions of US citizens teeter on the dangerous line between addiction and overdose, and many of them got there through the use of legal prescription drugs
From Prescription to Overdose
While the opioid crisis in South Dakota and the rest of the United States does include a considerable problem with heroin addiction and overdose, a lot of the addiction plaguing our society these days is due to the use of opiates which are prescribed as pain medication. Even though doctors were hesitant to prescribe opiates because of the risks of addiction and the health complications after heroin was outlawed, in the 1990’s, a marketing campaign was launched to market opioid drugs as the pain fighting wonder drug that they were known for in the 1800’s. OxyContin was commercialized as a low risk drug for addiction and doctors started to prescribe it more often. The number of overdoses linked to opioids spiked and the addiction to these opiates intensified as access to them became spread.
A Real Gateway Drug
Many heroin users will tell you it was their exposure to prescription opiates that made it so they felt like they needed heroin. Vicodin and Hydrocodone found their way into the hands of addicts easily through the advice of their physicians.
The 1990’s once again saw the USA at war. This time in the war was in the middle east. As a culture of war was able to embed itself in the nation, the severity of the opioid epidemic inflamed. Soldiers were using to numb the emotional and physical pain, getting the prescriptions of opioids for chronic and acute pain alike, and staying for the effects on brain chemistry. The general public did the same.
Today a huge amount of South Dakotans and of US citizens suffer with an opioid addiction that originated with over the counter drugs. If you are struggling with an opioid addiction, know that there is help. Please call us to find a drug rehab center today.