With differing messages across the United States when it comes to legalization of certain drugs, one issue that’s become a devastating problem in recent years has been the epidemic of opoid overdoses and deaths. One recent estimate was that 80 percent of the deaths caused by drugs were related to this sector, which includes both drugs that come by legal prescription and those that are sold through illegal channels, such as heroin.
One of the reasons for the problem is that pain medication is what’s driving the legal drug problem. Those suffering from long-term pain issues are prescribed medication like Vicodin or OxyContin and soon find themselves addicted. Slightly more than one-third of the more than 52,000 drug overdose deaths were connected to those prescribed by doctors.
The state where this problem has been the most severe, as it relates to the annual rate of deaths, is West Virginia. Issues like poverty, inadequate education and economic development opportunities have been used as reasons. In addition, mental health facilities are sorely lacking and the ethical lapses of drug manufacturers to freely make such drugs available are also seen as potential causes of the state’s problem.
From a political lens, the presidential campaign of Donald Trump noted the problem during stops in states like Maine. However, it remains to be seen exactly how much attention he will give it once he takes office on January 20. His predecessor, President Obama has authorized $1 billion to be used to fight the continuing problem.
Putting forth legislation may be difficult due to the powerful lobbying groups that work for drugmakers. One temporary solution is the introduction of abuse-deterrent formulations or ADF’s, though critics claim that the drugs are just as addictive and are simply a band-aid for a gaping wound.