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How the Use of Prescription Drugs Led to The Opioid Epidemic

March 23, 2018

The use of opium has been banned since 1905, but derivatives such as morphine, heroin, codeine, methadone and synthetic opiates are still prevalent today. Although the use of opioids is strictly regulated by several government agencies, prescription drug abuse is at an all time high.

From Legal Use to Uncontrolled Addiction

Pain relievers are regularly prescribed after a medical procedure or injury to help the patient manage pain while healing. As the medication is used, a person can develop a tolerance and decide to increase the dosage or frequency of use to maintain the effects. Since the 1990s prescription pain killers have been prescribed at greater rates, leading to widespread use and misuse.

In many cases the addictive nature of prescription drugs leads to the use of other illegal drugs and criminal charges often follow. The National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed startling statistics regarding opioid use:

  • 21-29 percent of patients misuse prescribed opiates.

  • Of those patients, between 8-12 percent develop an opioid addiction.

  • The CDC estimates that 4-6 percent of patients who misuse prescription opioids transition to using heroin.

  • Nearly 80 percent of heroin users first misused prescription opioids.

The Devastating Consequences of Addiction

The spike of opioid abuse has resulted in a rising death toll and Ohio ranks near the top of the list for overdose deaths in the country. Fatal overdoses involving heroin have more than tripled in the last five years, with adults aged 25-64 having the highest rate of fatal overdose.

Drug use can also result in criminal charges which have lasting consequences. Drug penalties can involve jail time and/or significant fines along with license suspension and probation. Penalties increase based on the type and amount of the drugs.

There is a stigma surrounding drug use and addiction, but it often starts with a legitimate prescription pain killer. A drug charge does not necessarily mean a conviction and there are options that can result in reduced sentencing and penalties. Before making a decision, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you on the best course of action for your preferred outcome.