The 3 Waves of the Opioid Epidemic

March 12, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann

Kenny Walter

Kenny Walter is an editor with HCPLive. Prior to joining MJH Life Sciences in 2019, he worked as a digital reporter covering nanotechnology, life sciences, material science and more with R&D Magazine. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Temple University in 2008 and began his career as a local reporter for a chain of weekly newspapers based on the Jersey shore. When not working, he enjoys going to the beach and enjoying the shore in the summer and watching North Carolina Tar Heel basketball in the winter.

In part 3 of Painkiller: A History of Crisis, we explore the data behind the 3 waves of the opioid epidemic.

Just when we were recovering from 1 of the tidal waves of the never-ending opioid epidemic, a new wave came rushing in.

First, prescription drugs.

Next, heroin.

Finally, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

The overdose death rate numbers became staggering, particularly in the early part of the last decade.

Each wave hit hard, causing death, destruction, and generations of addiction.

Despite the glimmer of hope seen in the data, where prescriptions are being doled out less frequently and overdose rates are finally coming down, the destruction of the now three-decade opioid epidemic is still evident.

While alternatives are becoming increasingly available, it may take another 2 decades before we truly have a grasp on how to handle the evolving waves of the opioid epidemic.