The opioid epidemic plaguing the Miami Valley, state and nation has many roots — starting with opium poppies growing thousands of years ago. In more recent history, opium was refined into morphine, a medical standard for managing pain, but also into heroin, which has no legitimate use.
Here are 5 key events that accelerated the current opioid epidemic.
Prescription pain pills: Chemists in the last century learned to synthesize opioid analogues to produce powerful new painkillers. During the 1990s, treating pain became a priority for medical providers and drug makers produced and marketed a number of prescription opioids.
Painkiller overdoses rise: Overdoses and deaths due to misuse of prescription painkillers started to climb through the 2000s which by 2011 brought changes in policy and laws which punished doctors writing too many prescriptions and cut some people off from painkillers.
Heroin fills void: Though heroin was available and used recreational drug, the street drug once contained to larger urban areas made its way everywhere to fill the void for those already addicted who could no longer get or afford pain pills.
Volume up, price down: The rising market brought the cost of heroin down and created a number of new users in addition to those hooked originally on pain pills.
Production shifts: By 2012, most heroin coming to the U.S. is coming through Mexico under cartel control. Just five years later, as much if not more of the product sold on the street as heroin is fentanyl, up to 50 times more powerful.