Leading New Jersey drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, Summit Behavioral Health, weighs in on the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the nation and how it mirrors other drug epidemics from the past.
The Current State of the Opioid Epidemic
What started out as a new way to treat acute and chronic pain has fast become an epidemic of drug abuse and drug deaths. Opioid painkillers like OxyContin and fentanyl have turned the most innocent of injuries and surgeries into precursors to full-blown drug addiction. By the time patients run out of their prescription pain medication, they are already hooked, and are forced to turn to illegal means (and often street drugs like heroin) to satisfy their addictions. More and more people are overdosing and dying from opioid drugs.
Drug Epidemics from the Past
In the 1800s, the drug was opium. It was sold in products like laudanum and was recommended for people with pain or insomnia. But it was also used to get high. Those who smoked it in opium dens in major cities were known as “opium fiends.”
It wasn’t long until cocaine and heroin were developed by Merck and Bayer, respectively. They were prescribed for a number of ailments and offered in over-the-counter (OTC) products, without prescription. By the early 1900s, cocaine use shifted from a consumer fad into an epidemic, which led to its (and heroin’s) removal from OTC products.
The mid-twentieth century brought amphetamines into the limelight. Again, marketed by drug companies, they took off in the fifties, giving birth to speed addicts. Later, in the late 1970s, cocaine made a comeback and quickly became an epidemic in its crack form in the 1980s. The mid-1980s was the beginning for our current epidemic, when opioids began being prescribed for pain.
What We Have Learned from Past Drug Crises
Past drug crises have taught us what doesn’t work in dealing with drug addiction. It seems that arresting users and dealers doesn’t slow the epidemic. Ostracizing addicted people is also a non-starter; it does nothing to help them. In fact, it likely impedes them from seeking the help they need.
Summit Behavioral Health leaders believe that the battle must be waged in three ways – preventing drug deaths due to overdose, preventing new addictions, and most importantly, helping those who are in active addiction get the help they need to recover.
About Summit Behavioral Health
While the current drug crisis is devastating for many, Summit wants those affected by addiction to know that there is hope and healing. The organization offers drug and alcohol medical detox, addiction inpatient treatment, and intensive and non-intensive outpatient treatment for patients who have successfully completed the residential program. Summit’s holistic treatment combines cognitive-behavioral and emotion-based therapy techniques with 12-step facilitation, and relapse prevention.
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