Over 700,000 people died in the U.S. from a drug overdose between 1999 to 2017. That’s about 130 American deaths daily. At PharmacyChecker, we are dedicated to helping fight this epidemic by learning more about the crisis and spreading awareness. I recently obtained certification for The Opioid Crisis in America course offered by Harvard University.
According to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the main channels that people obtain opioid drugs illegally are from a friend or relative for free; buying from a friend or relative; or buying from a drug dealer or stranger.
As our main focus is often online pharmacy and importation, it’s notable that Harvard did not identify online pharmacy or importation as contributors to the opioid epidemic.
However, in a minority of cases, rogue pharmacy sites do sell addictive drugs to people, which has led to overdose and death. Also, illegal opioid ingredients are often imported to make counterfeit prescription narcotics.
According to the Harvard course, people in their 20s and 30s have a greater risk of death from opioid overdose compared to people over the age of 40. One of the biggest contributors to the opioid epidemic is overprescribing. Health care providers should know when it’s appropriate to prescribe an opioid and use great caution in doing so.
Opioids are most justified for people who have serious, chronic pain due to terminal illness. Secondly, prescription opioids can be prescribed for acute pain that often follows surgery or serious injury. In the latter case, the trouble starts when patients take opioids beyond this period of acute pain and become addicted. Of course, non-medication options should always be discussed before trying opioids. Options include massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, and mindfulness meditation.
People with close family members, such as a parent, sibling, or child who have substance use disorder are four times more likely to develop an addiction themselves.
The main reason people die from an opioid overdose is due to opioids dulling the part of the brain that regulates breathing. Taking too much of the drug can cause breathing to completely stop.
Three critical things to do if you see someone overdosing:
- Give the intranasal Narcan medication treatment.
- Call 911 and stay with the person until help arrives.
- Give the person rescue breaths, also known as mouth-to-mouth breathing.
Worried about calling for help but don’t want to get in trouble for also using opioids?
Many states have Good Samaritan laws that do not penalize a person for helping someone who is experiencing an overdose. This is general immunity to charges for possession of drugs and does not apply to charges for drug trafficking.
Did online pharmacies have a role in causing the opioid crisis?
Yes, but a very small one. There are rogue online pharmacies that sell addictive prescription drugs online, and they need to be stopped. But it’s important to assess the true scope of the problem.
The Internet is not a main channel to obtain and misuse prescription narcotics.
According to a report published by SAMHSA, the Internet accounts for just 0.1% (one tenth of 1%) of all pain medication abuse in 2015. Data from 2017 doesn’t even have a category for the Internet. However, even if the number is 0.1%, it means potentially hundreds of people have died buying narcotic prescription drugs online and all channels of abuse need to be addressed.
According to the government’s survey of the 11.1 million people who misused prescription opioids, 53.1% got them from a friend or relative; 36.6% from a doctor’s prescription; 5.7% from a drug dealer; and 4.6% some other way.
We also can’t be certain why SAMHSA removed the Internet as a category, but there could be two possible answers:
The first being the internet channel was statistically insignificant, so such distribution was added to a category called “other” or “some other way.”
The second, the incredibly small percentage, 0.1%, did not fit the agenda of the pharmaceutical industry to blame the Internet for illegally obtained prescription narcotics.
The industry seeks to stop Internet access to more affordable medicine online from other countries and it uses the opioid crisis to accomplish that.
In the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, we prohibit online pharmacies that sell prescription opioid drugs for shipping into the U.S.
When it comes to importation, illegal opioids—usually in the form of fentanyl ingredients—are a real problem. Such clandestine activity leads to rogue imports from China to drug dealers in the U.S. who use the ingredients to manufacture fake prescription narcotics using pill presses. We support legislation – The STEER Act – that improves regulation of the distribution of pill presses to curb this counterfeiting of prescription narcotics.
The FDA has never reported a person seriously sickened or killed by buying medicine internationally from an online pharmacy that requires a prescription. But people have sadly died from ordering prescription opioids on the Internet from sites that didn’t require valid prescription. In fact, one such death occurred in 2001 when a young man named Ryan Haight bought a prescription narcotic from a rogue U.S. pharmacy website without a valid prescription and subsequently overdosed. Seven years later, Congress passed the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act.
It’s important to know that the safest online pharmacies don’t sell opioids or any controlled drugs across borders.
Let’s beat the opioid crisis with awareness and getting people the treatments that they need, but without stopping people from online access to safe personal drug importation of non-opioid, non-controlled products.Tagged with: Harvard, Opioid Crisis in America Course, SAMHSA