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There is an epidemic of opioid addiction and opioid overdose in North America right now. It has lead to many deaths and hospitalizations in these recent years. Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. They usually come in the forms of tablets, capsules, or as a liquid. Doctors most often prescribe opioids to relieve pain from toothaches and dental procedures, injuries, surgeries, and chronic conditions such as cancer. However, they can become very addictive to some users. Using opioids create artificial endorphins in the brain which are responsible for making you feel good. This is what makes using opioids so addictive. When the opioids use is halted, the person will most likely experience sickness and depression because there would be no production of the artificial endorphins. Opioids are usually safe when used correctly, but people who do not follow their doctor’s instructions misuse opioids and subsequently become addicted.Addiction is a disease that affects brain and behavior. Drug misuse leads the user to want to keep using the drug for its pleasurable effects. Over time, your brain will actually change in ways that will make you have powerful urges to use the drugThe signs and symptoms of substance abuse can be physical, behavioral, and psychological. One clear sign of addiction is not being able to stop using the substance. Other signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include poor coordination, slurred speech, euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. The treatment for opioid addiction is unique for every person. The main goal of treatment is to help people stop using the drug. The opioid epidemic started when the medical use of opioids became the norm. This all started in the 1990s as an actual solution to the undertreatment of pain. It did not take long for the first couple people to get hooked onto the opioid and overdose. It was a small number back then but it has grew exponentially this past decade. The current opioid epidemic is different than that of the heroin epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s just by its sheer extent and in the social backgrounds of a large part of the affected populations. In Canada, which is second only in per capita opioid consumption to the United States, the rise in fatal overdoses is more linked to higher potency or admixing of other drugs in areas where there was already a relatively high incidence of heroin use. About 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2016 (Collins, 2017). The vast majority of these deaths involved opioids, which includes heroin, morphine, oxycodone and synthetic drugs, including the various forms of fentanyl. Most opioid overdose deaths involved a combination of drugs (polydrug use), for example, an opioid and a substance in the depressant class, such as alcohol or anti-anxiety medications, and also stimulants like cocaine can sometimes contribute. Overdose is now the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. Annually, it kills more than car accidents and takes more lives than U.S. soldiers were lost in the deadliest year of the Vietnam War (16,899 in 1968) or at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States (43,115 in 1995).Although media and politicians in the United States have traditionally portrayed opioid addiction as a problem concentrated in the African-American community and associated with poverty—and responded with harsh criminal justice penalties—research shows that since the 1960s, at least half of all people with opioid use disorders have been white. By 2010, 90% of all new users were white (Netherland, J., & Hansen, 2017). While heroin addiction has typically been framed as an urban problem, the current epidemic has hit rural communities hard. Although opioid addiction is still most concentrated among the poorest people, this epidemic is especially dire among the people who have fared the worst since the financial crash of 2008: the working class and those who have fallen out of the middle class.At the height of this deadly epidemic in 2016, Congress weakened the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (D.E.A.) ability to go after drug distributors. Some members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, overpowered the DEA and the Justice Department to conform to a more industry-friendly law, weakening the efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills. There has been talk of politicians sponsored by these drug companies to weaken these laws in order to supply corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddle narcotics to the black market. The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies. This allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.In recent news, up and coming rapper Lil Peep was just one of many lives taken by overdosing on opioids. On November 15, 2017, Lil Peep was found dead in his tour bus before a concert, appearing to have overdosed on the drug Xanax, an anti-anxiety pill. However, the days after his death were shrouded in controversy as word got around that the Xanax was laced with the opioid, fentanyl. This was unbeknownst to Lil Peep at the time he took the pills, and if true, his death could have been due to foul play. Fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times that of heroin. The lethal dose of fentanyl for an average-sized adult male is 2-milligrams. Fentanyl is highly addictive and most of the supply is created illegally. Drug users generally don’t know when their heroin is laced with fentanyl, so when they inject their usual quantity of heroin, they can unknowingly take a deadly dose of the substance. The measuring equipment that illegal dealers use are not usually fine-tuned enough to ensure that they stay below the levels that would cause users to overdose. In addition, fentanyl that is sold on the street is less pure than the pharmaceutical version and thus its effect on a person’s body is very unpredictable. By the looks of it, the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in history is only going to get deadlier. The statistics have shown a steady increase in the amount of overdoses in deaths due to the use and misuse of opioids. What we need to do is address this clearly evident problem more in the media. We need to educate people and emphasize the consequences of using these drugs. Doctors can only do so much. We need to breakdown the culture of illegal recreational drug use and come up with stricter laws that crack down on the importation of these drugs by the nation’s big pharmaceutical companies.

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