Opioid Epidemic: How it Started & Where we Are Now

The opioid epidemic has traumatized many communities in the U.S. While these drugs have claimed countless lives, there are positive signs that the nation is starting to curb the problem. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there was a 4.1% drop in drug overdose deaths between 2017 and 2018 in the U.S. This was mainly due to a decrease in opioid overdoses. However, the nation still saw 67,367 drug overdose deaths in 2018.

New Hampshire has suffered thousands of opioid-related deaths, but they are decreasing. Statewide deaths involving prescription opioids dropped from 89 in 2016 to 43 in 2018. It can be hard to look at these numbers in a positive light. However, they show that there are improvements being made. People struggling with addiction are getting the help they need, which is a great sign for the epidemic overall.

To get the full picture of the opioid crisis, it’s important to understand this epidemic, how it’s affecting the community, what can be done, and how people can overcome it.

How Did the Epidemic Start?

The opioid epidemic can be traced back to 1991. At the time, opioid prescriptions were reserved mostly for patients fighting critical medical issues like cancer.

As time went on, large pharmaceutical companies started campaigns to convince health care providers that newly developed opioids could be beneficial to more patients. Some of these companies wanted doctors to prescribe opioids to people even if they were dealing with mild discomfort. However, there was a lack of emphasis on how addictive these medicines could be.

For the most part, these companies were able to mislead the public and physicians. By the time people figured it out, many were dealing with substance use disorders. Eventually, whole communities were dealing with the effects of opioid abuse.

Some regulations were put into place, but these regulations started to make things worse for people. Those who were dependent on the substance were suddenly cut off from prescribed opioids, and that led many of these individuals down a dangerous path.

Some started to find opioids on the black market while others turned to harder drugs to get their fix. Sadly, many were caught and had to face legal consequences that forced them into even worse situations.

Not every person’s opioid substance use disorder came about in the same way. Every story is unique, but the current crisis was born from some of the aforementioned events. Hopefully, this crisis helps ensure new regulations are put in place to ensure no other drug can reach Americans without being properly vetted.

How the Epidemic Is Affecting New Hampshire

New Hampshire is known for its sprawling forests with sap houses that offer homemade syrups. It is one of the smallest states in the union, but it packs a lot of heart.

Sadly, this beautiful state became an epicenter of this epidemic. The numbers skyrocketed starting in 2014. Since then, New Hampshire has had one of the highest death rates linked to this substance use disorder. In 2016, the Granite State ranked No. 2 in the nation for opioid-related deaths per capita. However, it was No. 1 for fentanyl-related deaths. Fentanyl is a type of synthetic opioid that’s extremely potent and extremely deadly. In 2015, the opioid was involved in almost two-thirds of the state’s drug deaths.

The problem became so big that New Hampshire’s politically active population started to demand change. Healthcare, jobs, and the economy became less important to the voters in New Hampshire in 2016. The people were tired of having a high death rate, compared to the rest of the country.

It’s taken some time, but the trend is finally turning around. This does not mean the fight is over; many deaths are linked to this epidemic in New Hampshire, but the state is seeing a glimmer of hope.

What Can Be Done to Fight Back?

Fighting this problem isn’t easy. You cannot beat this fight by focusing on just one aspect of it. One way to combat this issue is to try to change the way people look at folks dealing with substance use disorders.

For a long time, people with a substance use disorder were seen as criminals. However, addiction is really a disease that can affect anyone. It is also a disorder that requires medical assistance. Punishment doesn’t work on its own because the dependency is so great that it overrides one’s ability to stop using. It’s also important to note that some people are genetically predisposed to have addictive personality traits.

This is one reason we don’t try to shame or punish people that come to us at The Granite House. We focus on understanding and facilitating patients’ journeys toward sobriety. There’s no doubt this is a difficult process for some people, but we know it can be done.

Education is another way to fight back. Now that we know how easy it is to become dependent on opioids, it’s important to educate others to ensure it doesn’t continue to happen.

Avoiding an Opioid Addiction

People who need pain killers can ask their doctor about alternatives to opioids. Sometimes, there’s an alternative you can use that isn’t as addictive. Choosing something less addictive can keep you safe.

Of course, that’s just one step you can take. Here are some other points to consider:

• It’s important that information on the label of your prescription is followed perfectly. People often overuse opioids because they did not follow the directions.

• Those who are prescribed an opioid should confirm the prescription and dosage. Errors filling a prescription happen more often than you think. These errors could be caught if you simply confirm the dosage with your doctor and pharmacist before you start using the medicine.

• You want to make sure the pharmacist and doctor are aware of every medication you are taking when you are being prescribed something new. Sometimes, opioids could have a stronger effect when mixed with other drugs. This will help prevent an adverse reaction.

• Don’t change the way you use the prescribed drug at any time. Even a small change could have a negative effect. People change their dosages for various reasons; maybe they are feeling more pain than usual. However, you don’t want to do this. If you want to change a dosage, talk to your doctor first.

• It’s important to make sure your prescribed opioids are stored in a safe place. Yes, a lot of people leave their prescriptions in a place that can be easily reached. While this makes sense, it is not advisable. The reality is this drug can become addictive, and that means it’s a dangerous drug. Place in a safe spot, which protects others from accidentally taking it.

Talk to your physician about your concerns, and he or she can tell you more about opioids and what you can do to prevent an issue. This drug can be helpful but only when used correctly with the help of a doctor.

What Can You Do If You or a Loved One Are Struggling?

Even if you take every possible precaution, addiction is still a possibility. We’ve worked with many cautious people who’ve been hit by substance use disorder despite their best intentions.

Of course, the first step to kicking an unhealthy opioid habit is to seek professional help. The Granite House has provided a sanctuary for people who want to take their lives back.

Our location is in Derry, New Hampshire, which is close to some of the biggest cities in the state like Manchester and New Boston. We may be close to these areas, but we are tucked away in a beautiful area away from the clutter you find in major cities. Part of what we provide is a total experience that makes you feel like you’ve unplugged from the world for a bit to work on yourself.

At The Granite House, we utilize a 12-step program for patients who have become dependent on opioids or any other drug. We rely on this program because we’ve seen it work in-house. On top of that, we also use clinical therapies that some of the most trusted experts rely on to treat opioid use disorder.

The application of these types of therapies is quite involved. After helping patients through the detoxification process, we like to implement personalized counseling programs. Our ability to use clinical therapy properly is part of the reason we’ve earned the respect of the community.

It doesn’t end there though. We also put a lot of resources into counseling. This may not seem like a big deal, but an experienced counselor can do a lot for a person fighting a dependency issue.

These professionals can give you tools that will help you avoid a relapse. You’ll also learn to have confidence in yourself, which empowers you to fight your substance use disorder. Sometimes, there are underlying issues that may make a person more susceptible to the addictive qualities of opioids. That’s why we provide treatment for co-occurring mental disorders.

Being able to have honest conversations with a counselor can help you uncover underlying issues if there are any. However, it’s important to form trusting relationships. So, even if it takes some time to find the right person, try to be patient because this is an important step.

We can help you learn some of the following skills to prevent a relapse:

• Recognition skills to help you avoid them triggers.
• How to cope with anxiety or stress.
• Self-reflection skills to help you monitor yourself.
• How to meditate to keep you steady.

The other part of our program involves group therapy. We’ve learned that having patients talk to others who’ve gone through similar circumstances does make a difference. Human beings connect more effectively with others who’ve had similar experiences, and this connection makes it easier to open up and heal.

Keep in mind that the connections made through group therapy are sometimes quite strong. The people in your group are there to beat this substance use disorder just like you. This means you can all help each other out so that you find a place where you’re in control once again.

The opioid epidemic may have a stronghold on New Hampshire and other states in the U.S., but there is hope. Numbers are decreasing, which means people are seeking help for their addiction. Reach out to our staff at The Granite House if you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction. We’re ready to help you on your road to recovery.