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The opioid epidemic: The facts to know

Opiates are addictive, and as such, they're often limited when given to patients for pain. Some kinds of opiates are completely illegal, like heroin, because of the significant possibility for abuse. Those facing a DUI may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so the increasing the availability of drugs could potentially increase the number of DUIs seen across the state.

While it's long been known that opiates are addictive, medical providers often overprescribed them. As a result, the United States now faces an opioid epidemic that each state is attempting to get control over. Heroin is found more regularly on the streets today than before, and overdoses are out of control.

Why is the growing rate of opioid use a problem?

The number of overdose deaths is the main concern. The total number of deaths continues to increase, and over six out of 10 drug-related deaths involve opioid drugs. Both prescription and illegal opiates are involved in these cases.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that prescription opioids are a driving factor in the growing number of opioid deaths. Between 1999 and 2010, the number of prescription opioids sold nearly quadrupled, making them easy to obtain and abuse.

Heroin use, specifically, has grown between 2002 and 2013. It's more common today among those between the ages of 18 and 25. Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled between the years 2010 and 2015 as well, showing that it is a growing concern. Between 2014 and 2015, the increase could be connected to the use of synthetic opioids including fentanyl.

Drug abuse is hard for everyone, but imprisonment isn't the only possible solution. Some states are looking into drug rehabilitation as a main way to help eliminate addiction and prevent relapses. Education, enforcement and treatment may be the best plan to help prevent people from getting hooked on these drugs and to eliminate the risk of relapse or the committing of additional crimes in the future.

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Suffolk County Defenders Association New York State Defenders Association | Founded 1967 New York State Bar Association Suffolk County Bar Association | NY 1908

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