The Opioid Epidemic: The Statistics, The Resources, and The People.





Over the past few years, the Opioid Epidemic in the United States has proven to be one of the largest blights on the fabric of our society. Death tolls have skyrocketed just since last year by almost 10 percent from the previous years, calling for a public health emergency to be declared, as well as various states beginning to tap into grant programs of upwards of $1 Billion to help combat the crisis.


One does not have to venture too terribly far into a Google search to find bleak updates regarding opioids. They have come to obtain a stranglehold on the lives of nearly millions of Americans. It is important to understand a few factors from understanding this public health crisis. This understanding can help one navigate through the seemingly insurmountable maelstrom of statistics, charts, and graphs. Furthermore, this understanding can help put these studies in perspective. So much so that they begin reflecting much more than just numbers on a chart. They begin to represent the lives of human beings behind the numbers.



1) There are different types of opioids within the epidemic:


When we talk about opioids, as well as the opioid epidemic, we aren’t looking at one specific substance. What we are referring is typically ranging from everything to heroin, to fentanyl, to prescription painkillers, and to a wide variety of synthetic opioids rearing their heads in the illicit market lately. This also helps us gain a more precise view as to exactly which opioids are contributing to the epidemic. For example, most heroin west of the Mississippi tends to be distributed in the black tar from, while the heroin sold east tends to come in a white powdered form, where one typically sees the substance mixed with more synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Furthermore, in just this recent year, the Center for Disease Control has estimated that while fentanyl deaths have increased, there has been a significant drop in deaths from prescription opioids, heroin, and methadone. This has provided some evidence that efforts such as more availability of treatment and other preventive methods are starting to have positive benefits. (In contrast, Portland, OR has started to see an increase of methamphetamine use over the past year.)


synthetic opioids

2) Trust the Resources


Sir Francis Bacon once wrote that knowledge is power. Considering the knowledge that is available in combating opioid and other substance dependencies, we first start to think of treatment. A previous blog from Oregon Trail Recovery discussed the increase of individuals seeking treatment over the past few years. However, most of us in the field know that the issue is far from gone just by admitting into treatment. The same is true of the opioid epidemic. Further resources such that are found in websites such as that which is found from The Oregon Health Authority allows one to see the effects of prescription rates of opioid painkillers in a variety of different categories, areas, and types of opioids.  Furthermore, the use of medically assisted treatment becoming more and more prevalent in treatment centers across Oregon (including ours), adds valuable prevention methods to the opioid epidemic as it relates as a public health crisis. This perspective also allows us to see how the epidemic affects people as a whole.





3) Behind the numbers


One aspect that often gets muddled when addressing the statistics is that there are real people behind these numbers. Real individuals who are no longer with us. Real families who will never see their loved ones again. That is often times a fact that becomes difficult to face. This is not to wax poetic or try to say that these findings and studies do not help (the polar-opposite, in fact), but it is to remind us as treatment providers that we have a responsibility and a duty to each individual we treat. That responsibility is to arm ourselves with as many facts as we can, to consider all perspectives and information, and most importantly to remember the people behind the numbers.


These aspects not only bring the Opioid Epidemic into a more manageable perspective, it also gives us an idea as to why we fight the good fight. We at Oregon Trail Recovery intend to keep on fighting.





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–    J. Dalton Williams

Intake and Admissions

Oregon Trail Recovery, LLC.