The opioid problem in North America has reached epidemic levels. Thousands of people across Canada and the United States are dying every month from the drugs. Opioids are powerful drugs that come from the opium poppy, a kind of plant. They include opium, morphine, heroin, oxycontin, and fentanyl.
Opioids are used to treat pain. They are very effective, but they are also very addictive. Many people who start to use opioids find it very difficult to stop. If their doctor won’t give them a prescription, then they often buy illegal drugs like heroin instead. In the past 10 years, a new kind of opioid has become more and more popular. It’s called fentanyl, and it is very strong. In fact, it is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. This means that it is very easy to overdose on.
In 2016, 64,000 Americans died of opioid overdose. In fact, drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. Many of the overdoses are due to fentanyl, because illegal drug sellers add it to heroin. This makes it stronger, but the buyers don’t know. But there is reason to hope. New, cheap fentanyl test strips have started to become available across North America. These will help addicts test their drugs to avoid overdosing.
In Rhode Island, the senate recently passed a bill legalizing the strips. California has started distributing the test strips. In Vancouver, a city hit hard by the opioid epidemic, the test strips are now available at dollar stores. According to experts, the test strips are effective. Because they are also cheap, only a dollar or two, it is hoped that they will reduce the rate of fentanyl overdose.
The other big problem with opioids is, of course, the addiction itself. In the past, doctors were always very careful about prescribing opioids to patients, especially over long periods of time. However, a new opioid called oxycontin, which was developed in the 1990s, made doctors worry a lot less about addiction. So they began to prescribe a lot more. But this was a mistake, and many people became addicted. Oxycontin is the main culprit behind the epidemic.
A new report by The New York Times has claimed that the maker of oxycontin, Purdue, knew that the drug was very addictive, but they spread false information. They marketed it as a less addictive form of morphine. Now, top executives at Purdue may face charges. The opioid epidemic may not end any time soon, but at least we might start to hope for some justice.
Sandy Fortune For The Teen Times (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. What is the cause of the overdoses?
2. What has become available to enable addicts test their drugs to avoid overdosing?
3. Why will the top executives at Purdue may face charges?
1. Did you know that so many people in North America were dying of drug abuse?
2. What do you think are the causes of such an odd problem as drug abuse throughout the big population in North America?
3. Do you think the rich and smart are helping the poor people who are addicted to drugs or are they using them to make money without worrying about putting their lives at risk?