The Washington Post just completed an in depth article on the prescription drug overdose problem in the US. They are calling it, without a doubt, this is the worst drug epidemic our country has ever seen–even worse than the crack cocaine epidemic.
According to 60 Minutes and the WP article, at the height of the opioid crisis, Congress passed a law that may have allowed the epidemic to worsen. The bill, introduced in 2015, was promoted as a way to ensure patients had access to the medication they needed. But a former DEA official said the law made it hard to stop distributors from sending prescription drugs to “bad pharmacies and doctor’s offices.”
Drug manufacturers have not been reporting suspiciously large orders to the DEA for investigative follow up as required. Why they have not remains a mystery, but it could be a multitude of problems. It could be they just aren’t geared up to track all these pill shipments, could be a profit incentive not to report it, who knows? But, it doesn’t matter what the reason, they are required to do it and that’s still the law.
The bill that loosened the tracking of large drug shipments passed by unanimously by Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. It prevented the DEA from blocking shipment of suspicious amounts, and mostly these shipments were opioids which are at the center of the overdose problem. Millions of these pills are somehow finding their way onto the street.
According to a study by the New York Times, drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times.
The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
Although the data is preliminary, the Times’s best estimate is that deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017. Drug overdose deaths have risen about 600% since 1980.