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The opioid epidemic

Recently, it has become more common to know someone who died of an opioid-related death than someone who died in a car accident. With opioid abuse at an all time high in the U.S., the opioid crisis has claimed more than 33,000 American victims.

The opioid crisis is unique from other drug problems in the U.S. because most opioids are legal, prescribed medication such as Morphine and OxyContin. They are prescribed to relieve pain from injuries, after surgery and even wisdom tooth extraction. From 1991 to 2011, the number of prescriptions written by doctors for opioids had more than doubled. By 2015, one in every three Americans had been prescribed an opioid according to CBS.

Why is it an epidemic?

It’s addictive and it’s fatal. Opioids enter the bloodstream and essentially flood the body with dopamine to give you artificial feelings of euphoria. It is human instinct to crave rushes of adrenaline, but opioids offer a level of satisfaction that can only be reached by its consumption. After extended use, opioids can cause the body to stop producing naturally-occurring dopamine or endorphins, creating an ever greater dependency on the drug.

What are the local effects?

Oklahoma has one of the highest opioid-related death rates in America according to the Oklahoma Attorney General. However, from 2013 to 2015, Oklahoma saw a nearly 25 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths. This rise in opioid addictions has created an influx to the already prevalent homeless problem in Oklahoma. In Tulsa, the overall homeless rates also continue to rise alongside opioid overdose rates.

What’s the plan?

In the light of the prevalent opioid epidemic in Oklahoma, Rep. Tim Downing proposed a plan last month. Similar to anti-cigarette efforts, a 10 percent tax would be placed on the first sale of opioids (for distributors rather than buyers.)

“I do think that that is absolutely possible,” said Downing to NewsOK. “I think this would have at least an equal, if not a little better, shot in the legislature than the cigarette tax.”

Currently, Oklahoma is suing several pharmaceutical companies for “misrepresenting the addictiveness of opioids,” according to NewsOn6.

Authorities urge the appropriate disposal of excess opioids and to only take the drug to relieve physical pain that cannot be relieved by over-the-counter medication.