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An Inside Look at the Opioid Epidemic: Three Waves Analysis

By: Shannon Persad November 27, 2019 no comments

An Inside Look at the Opioid Epidemic: Three Waves Analysis

It’s no secret the opioid crisis in the United States has lead to unprecedented overdose deaths and negative impacts in communities across the nation.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the beginnings of the opioid epidemic began with pharmaceutical companies pushing their medication in the late 90s. They informed the public and the medical community their medications were not addictive. As a result, opioid pain relievers were prescribed at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, people began to misuse and abuse their prescriptions. As health professionals were under scrutiny and monitoring programs, the prescription rate decreased nationwide. However, users then turned to street drugs and sought after deadly alternatives, such as heroin. After, other drugs such as fentanyl were laced with heroin or sold illegally, leading to an increase in overdose deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized the opioid overdose deaths in three waves: prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids involving fentanyl.

Three Waves of the Opioid Crisis Involving Overdose Deaths

The CDC claims, “From 1999-2017, almost 400,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.”

The CDC has categorized the opioid overdose deaths in three waves:

  • The first wave: Increase in prescription drugs in the 1990s. The deaths included prescription opioids, both natural and semi-synthetic opioids, and methadone.
  • The second wave: Began in 2010, with overdose deaths increasing that involves heroin
  • The third wave: From the beginning of 2013, a significant increase in overdose deaths occur involving synthetic opioids. This is the start of IMF—illicit manufactured fentanyl. The CDC states “The IMF market continues to change, and IMF can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.

Source: CDC


It is concluded that the opioid crisis has become more fatal than years past, with overdose deaths increasing due to the consumption of more deadly alternatives.

If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, seek professional help now.

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