The current opioid epidemic in Atlanta did not happen overnight. It started back in the 1990s when opioids received FDA approval for use as prescription painkillers. The pharmaceutical companies were overjoyed as it allowed them to market the drugs and encourage physicians, not just in Atlanta but throughout the United States, to prescribe these new “non-addictive” painkillers to their patients.
Initially, since physicians believed the pharmaceutical companies and their claim opioids were non-addictive, they over-prescribed the medications. Furthermore, there were no strict regulations on the drugs that made it possible for people to get multiple prescriptions for opioids from different doctors.
However, prescription opioids are just a part of the cause of the current epidemic. Opioids cover a range of drugs, including:
- Fentanyl (Synthetic Opioid)
According to Georgia’s Department of Public Health, the total number of opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 245% from 2010 to 2017. In 2017, just about two-thirds of drug overdose deaths were caused by opioids.1
In 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 60% of all drug overdose deaths in Georgia were caused by opioids. While the number of accidental overdose deaths from prescription opioids and synthetic opioids decreased, the number of deaths from heroin overdoses continued to increase. 2
Why Are Opioids Addictive?
Opioids help alleviate pain and discomfort. Depending on the dosage level, they can produce feelings of euphoria, so the person does not feel any pain whatsoever. When a person starts taking opioids, they notice a reduction in their pain and discomfort.
However, the body begins to develop a tolerance for opioids. Eventually, the same dosage no longer helps alleviate pain and discomfort. So, a higher dosage is required to achieve the same effects.
Yet, eventually, the body continues to increase its tolerance for opioids. As you can imagine, this is where abusing opioids become more dangerous and could lead to potential overdoses and death since even higher amounts are needed to achieve the same results.
What Happens When Doctors Will No Longer Write Prescriptions for Opioids?
As we mentioned, the current Atlanta opioid epidemic is not just from prescription opioids. While doctors continue to prescribe opioids, it has become more difficult for people to obtain multiple prescriptions for opioids.
When a person develops a dependence on prescription opioids and are told they cannot get a higher dosage or more pills, they panic. They believe they need opioids to function and survive. So, if their doctor will not help them, they hit the streets looking for illegal opioid prescription drugs or viable substitutes like fentanyl or heroin.
Heroin costs less than illegal prescription opioids. So, it is no wonder people readily turn to heroin in place of their prescription opioids or to supplement their prescription opioid use.
However, a growing concern is many street dealers have started lacing heroin with fentanyl to stretch their supplies further.
The danger with fentanyl is it can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and prescription opioids. All it takes is using heroin laced with fentanyl once, and you could find yourself in the hospital emergency room because of an overdose. Or worse, you could die and never even make it to the hospital.
The Atlanta Opioid Epidemic: Not Just an Inner-City Problem
The Bluff is an inner-city area of Atlanta that is considered a dangerous neighborhood due to crime and drug dealing. As such, it is just one community in the Atlanta Metro area contributing to the city’s opioid epidemic.
What surprises many people is that the opioid epidemic has migrated from inner-city areas to affluent suburban areas, like Buckhead and other neighborhoods in the region known as the Triangle. Many of the current opioid abusers and addicts come from upscale communities in the city.
Another concern is the age of opioid abusers and addicts. Most are young people in their teens and early twenties, who get good grades in high school, participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer in the community, and otherwise are considered well-behaved and well-mannered young adults.
Whether from the Bluff or the Triangle, many opioid addicts are 18 to 25 years old. They initially became dependent on prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Sadly, many of these young people are dying from accidental overdoses before they can get the help they need.
Opioid Addiction Treatment in Atlanta
For those struggling with opioid dependence and abuse, you could be putting yourself one step closer to overdosing and potentially dying each time you use. When you are ready for help with your opioid addiction, Buckhead Behavioral Health is here to help.
We understand taking the first steps to get help can be scary. We will be with you each step of the way. Our addiction treatment facility in Atlanta provides a caring, safe, and supportive environment to get sober and healthy, free from outside distractions and temptations to give you the recovery start you need.
Please feel free to contact us at 908-489-5564 for further information about our individualized addiction treatment programs today.