A Hard Pill to Swallow – Let’s Talk About the Opioid Crisis


When everyone started using the expression, ‘opioid epidemic’, I thought, “Well, yes it’s a problem, sure, but to call it an epidemic? Isn’t that a little too dramatic?” But today I know that it was my ignorance speaking. Because let’s face it, it is an epidemic! And if you are like the ‘old me’ who had little to no idea about the gravity of the situation, allow me to decode the nuances of this crisis for you.

For every other developed nation, it’s natural for their life expectancy rate to steadily rise. But in 2015, the USA’s life expectancy entered a period of gradual decline. The last time something like that happened was in the 1910s and the culprit was World War I and the 1918’s influenza pandemic. But in the case of 2015, it was neither a war nor a virus, but our own inability (on an individual level as well as on the level of administration) to decide what’s good for our health and what’s not.

How Bad is the Situation?

Death rates from overdoses had increased almost sixfold in the last 17-18 years. From 1999 to 2018, more than 450,000 people died due to opioid overdose of drugs like heroin and fentanyl. That’s more than 125 people every day! Stats show that nearly 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018.

Those who manage to escape death end up with horrible symptoms and signs of drug abuse including – anxiety attacks, depression, sleeping disorders, poor coordination, irritability, disrupted breathing, drowsiness, abandonment of responsibilities, and whatnot. Babies are being born with withdrawal syndrome because their mothers had a history of opioid misuse.

What happened? When did we become like this? What went wrong?

Here’s How It Started?

●      In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies started promoting (rather aggressively) the benefits of opioid-based medicines as excellent pain relievers that are absolutely safe to use and not addictive by any standards. The medical community believed them and started prescribing these drugs on a scale like never before.

●      This led to widespread misuse of prescription as well as non-prescribed opioids in almost every part of the country. People were slowly getting addicted to these drugs and before the government realized what exactly was happening and how bad the situation really is, it was already a little too late. In 2017, Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency.

Opioid Crisis and the Self Medication Hypothesis 

The Self Medication Hypothesis first appeared in the medical journals in the 1970s after clinicians observed that opioid addicts were using drugs mainly as a coping mechanism to battle stress, anxiety, loneliness, or other such psychological issues. This kind of drug abuse isn’t any different from getting addicted to gambling or developing an eating disorder to compensate for other underlying physical, mental, or emotional issues. This theory is now widely accepted by a majority of researchers and physicians.

We are talking about this theory to provide scientific evidence for something that actually doesn’t need any evidence or great wisdom to understand! It’s so obvious and apparent that it’s almost embarrassing that people aren’t getting it. This simple truth is – your life is a consequence of your own decisions and actions (and nobody else’s). You should be in charge of your own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you are healthy and in a peaceful (if not joyful) state of mind. 

People do not take charge of their own wellbeing and then they try to squeeze out happiness or moments of peace either from other people or from alcohol or drugs or by simply drowning themselves into heaps and heaps of food. It’s all the same thing!

But Life Has Been So Hard to Me!

This is the typical reaction you get if you tell people this simple truth! Well, it could actually be true for a minuscule number of people who are in wars, or those fighting a genuinely serious ailment, or something like that, but for most people, this is just an excuse. No generation before us has seen the kind of comforts and conveniences we have seen as a generation of people. But can you say we are the happiest generation ever? Hell NO! We are the whiniest people to ever walk upon this planet. In this pursuit for happiness, look at what we’ve done to the planet and now what we are doing to ourselves!

So What’s The Solution?

As humans, we have the power and resources to change our circumstances whenever we want. Because that’s what it means to be a human. All we need is some conscious effort in this direction. We need to invest time and energy to learn how to produce the chemistry of health, love, and blissfulness (yes, all these things have a chemical basis in our body in the form of serotonin, endorphins,  oxytocin, etc.)

When each one of us is a proud owner of the most super-advanced chemical factory there is on this planet (I am talking about our physiological structure), why do we need external stimulants like opioids, alcohol, or even cigarettes to give us momentarily pleasures? We just need to take that first step – to truly recognize that I am responsible for the circumstances I am in. From there onwards, the journey itself will guide you on what and how to take the next step and the one after that. 


Why Self Medication Creates Problems for Addictive Behavior
Why Self Medication Creates Problems for Addictive BehaviorLearn about the self-medication theory of addiction, which says that people use substances or behaviors to cope …


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