In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or over misused opioids. More specifically, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers and 745,000 people used heroin. As a result of this misuse, nearly 50,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses.

Since then, the crisis has only worsened, with fewer facilities available to treat those suffering from addiction. And this is an addiction that is currently costing the United States $78.5 billion a year when factoring in the cost of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

But the US didn’t get here overnight, and it’s worth reflecting on the crisis as it stands today to help patients maintain a healthy relationship with their medication. That’s why, here, we’re talking about how you can do just that.

Medical opioid epidemic

How did the opioid crisis happen?

In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. Healthcare providers subsequently prescribed them at greater rates, and the widespread misuse of medication began long before authorities could deem that they were highly addictive.

As a country, we’re now in a position where roughly 21-29% of patients misuse the opioids they’ve been prescribed for chronic pain. The issue has become a public health crisis to the point where there is a rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. Likewise, we’ve seen the further spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Is the government addressing it?

The government has a range of initiatives that they’re pursuing in order to curb the high levels of opioid misuse. For example, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is putting their resources behind five key objectives in order to reduce addiction rates. These priorities are:

  1. Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  2. Promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs
  3. Strengthening understanding through better public health surveillance
  4. Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  5. Advancing better practices for pain management

The National Institute of Health (NIH), a component of HHS, is the nation’s leading medical research agency. They’re working to help solve the opioid crisis by discovering ways to prevent misuse. NIH work with pharmaceutical companies as well as academic research centers to discuss:

  • Safe, effective and non-addictive strategies to manage chronic pain
  • New, innovative medications and technologies to treat opioid use disorders
  • Improved overdose prevention and interventions to save lives and support recovery


While these objectives make sense, action needs to be taken now to address the lack of understanding most US citizens share. Because unless the American public realizes the addictive nature of such medication, the opioid crisis will only continue to ravage the country and take more lives.

Am I at risk of addiction?

Anyone who takes opioids is at risk of developing an addiction to it. The length of time you use opioids and your personal history can increase your likelihood, but it is impossible to predict who is most likely to become dependent on the medication. 

The reason this dependency grows is that opioids trigger the release of your endorphins. When released, endorphins make you feel good. They dull your pain receptors and improve your sense of wellbeing. Naturally, when that wears off, you crave those feelings again and addiction builds. The longer you take opioids, the more your body slows down its production of endorphins – making the addicted increase their dose, and the problem even worse.

Doctors nowadays are reluctant to prescribe higher doses, or even renew your prescription. While it is absolutely right that medical professionals don’t go against their practice, this can cause some patients to turn toward more dangerous substances. Some opioid users ultimately resort to heroin and other illegally obtained opioids. 

How can I avoid becoming addicted?

Opioids are safest when used for three or fewer days to manage acute pain. If you need opioids for acute pain, then you should talk with your doctor about your addiction concerns. They will typically give you a prescription with the lowest dose possible for the shortest time needed.

If you’re living with chronic pain, opioids are not likely to be a safe (or effective) long-term treatment option. Instead, your doctor should be able to recommend other treatments that involve less-addictive medication as well as non-pharmacological therapies. You may wish to try a variety of available avenues before landing on an effective solution that addresses the pain while still giving you a high quality of life.

Finally, if you’re living with someone who is suffering from either chronic or acute pain, you should safeguard them by disposing of opioid medications properly. All you have to do is contact your nearest law enforcement agency, waste service or the Drug Enforcement Administration for information about local medication take-back programs.

How does Medix fit in?

As Medix stocks some drugs which are known to be habit-forming, we have a responsibility to make sure you’re aware of the risks that opioids present. What’s more, we want to reassure you that we will never supply prescription medications to you (or anyone) without a valid prescription.

Your doctor is best placed to recommend medication, and any questions you have concerning your exposure to addiction should be answered by them.

However, if you would like to know more about the medication we have available, you can call 1-866-500-6633 (toll-free phone number) or +44 1438 500111 (international phone number) to talk to a member of our customer service team. Alternatively, you can send us a message via our contact form.

The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice.