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Why Does the Opioid Crisis Continue to Grow?

The opioid crisis takes more than a hundred lives every single day. Why does the death count continue to grow?

The Current State of the Opioid Epidemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a surge of opioid overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System (CDC), in the year before the declaration of the pandemic, the United States reported 53,099 opioid deaths (both legal and illegal). In the year 2021, the United States reported 80,725 opioid deaths (both legal and illegal).

Many experts speculate that this significant increase is due to the global trauma of COVID-19. The pandemic caused chronic stress, fear, housing instability, and job insecurity. Many people struggled with a constant influx of cortisol and developed trauma symptoms. People self-medicated their trauma by using alcohol and drugs, including opioids.

The Purdue Pharma Settlement

Though the opioid crisis seems bleak right now, some steps are being taken in the right direction. Purdue Pharma largely initiated the opioid epidemic with their dangerous marketing of OxyContin; now, the courts finally held them responsible for their actions. In March of 2022, Purdue Pharma settled a multi-state lawsuit, acknowledging its role in the ongoing opioid crisis. They are set to pay between 5.5 and 6 billion dollars over a nine-year period. The money will go to states, counties, and people directly impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The Purdue Pharma company must entirely dissolve by 2024. Presumably, due to a 2013 FDA ruling that no other companies could replicate oxycontin’s formulation, this will mean the end of this drug. Considering that Johns Hopkins Medicine lists OxyContin as one of their most abused opioids on their “Opioid Addiction” online guide, this is a win for people trying to end the opioid epidemic.

Unfortunately, the Sackler family—owners of Purdue Pharma—made it through this lawsuit largely unscathed. Under this settlement, the Sacklers are barred from ever participating in the production or sale of any opioids. They must release a statement of regret, though they are not required to admit culpability. Unfortunately, in exchange for these minor penalties, they receive lifetime immunity from civil cases brought against them for their role in the opioid crisis.

Where Do We Go From Here?

With the money from the Purdue Pharma settlement, states can expand their opioid treatment options. They can offer payment assistance for people seeking long-term recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD). Until then, individuals can increase awareness of existing opioid treatment programs. People can encourage loved ones to limit opioid use after injuries or surgeries. Individuals can band together, offering support to the people who need it.

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the opioid epidemic is worse than ever. The lives lost to opioids yearly increased by 27,626 people from the start of the pandemic to now. We can attribute much of this change to the trauma caused by COVID-19. If you’re struggling with opioid abuse or addiction, The Guest House can open the door to a new, substance-free life. We treat addiction from a trauma-informed perspective. We address the root causes of your mental health conditions. When you’re ready for the first step, please reach out to The Guest House at (855) 483-7800.