Drug overdoses are an incredibly serious issue in this nation. According to drugpolicy.org, nearly 64,000 people in the United States died from drug abuse in 2016. That’s more than the amount of people attending ETSU multiplied by four. According to Statista, that’s also double the amount of deaths from terrorism worldwide. Especially in Appalachia, where the opiod crisis has taken effect, this is an issue that needs to be solved.

There was once a time when doctors were wary of prescribing opioids, so how did we get to millions of opioid prescriptions in the United States? Well, in a time in which the pharmaceutical industry was not quite the titan of an industry that it is today, opioids were not being used enough.

Pharmaceutical companies were still hauling in a substantial profit, but they weren’t producing enough for the public. People who needed opioids for highly serious, acute pain were not receiving proper medication, so a marketing campaign was launched to counter that problem and bring awareness to a new medication that could help people. The problem is that it worked way too well.

With more people receiving opioids and the companies’ increasing profits, the pharmaceutical companies saw opportunity to expand further. They pushed their marketing campaigns, claiming that the drugs addictive qualities was a myth, and pushed their drugs for all types of pain. Now prescription painkillers run rampant throughout the United States, and many, many people have lost everything to them.

Those who are completely addicted to these drugs will do anything to get more. One recovering addict featured on “Last Week Tonight” recounted that he would repeatedly punch walls and wooden planks, breaking his own fingers just to get prescribed more opioids.

This entire nation has lost so much to drug addiction, and it is so incredibly vital that we know the facts of the matter and how to help. Even if you don’t know anyone personally who is suffering from addiction, you are no doubt familiar of the many beloved celebrities who have died from overdosing on drugs: Michael Jackson, Tom Petty, Heath Ledger, Mac Miller and Whitney Houston, just to name a tragic few.

The pharmaceutical industry keeps getting richer off the misery of the American public, and there is no easy or simple answer to the opioid crisis. All each of us can do is stay informed, use drugs responsibly, dispose of drugs responsibly and stay alert for signs of addiction in the lives of those around us. No one is immune to addiction, but no one is beyond help either.