Is There Really an “Opioid Epidemic”? - Healthy Living Association

Is There Really an “Opioid Epidemic”?

The Truth about the Latest Science Scare

Would you like to know the truth behind one of the biggest news stories of the decade, the so-called opioid epidemic that is said to threaten our very lives as we sit in the comfort of our living rooms? I wanted to know, and thus began a 4-week period of delving into all the data I could dig up on the subject.

What I found out surprised me and allowed me to sleep a little better at night, knowing that drug dealers weren’t about to kick in my front door, force me at gunpoint to ingest dangerous pharmaceuticals, and turn me into an overnight heroin addict.

To hear the (increasingly unreliable) mainstream media tell it, people are dropping by the thousands on U.S. streets as a result of an “opioid crisis,” a plague that demands new laws, more government agencies, and closer oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.

Figure 1: Root of the problem. Poppy plants


Nothing could be further from the truth. Based on what I found out during my research, this epidemic will likely go the way of other, now forgotten five-alarm-fires of the past 20 years.

Meth, crack, the Zika virus, Ebola, and the West Nile Virus were all supposed to have killed me already, so I guess I’m lucky to be alive. Fortunately, the bottom line on this latest red scare is that unless you purchase illicit drugs on the street from a shady dealer, and get your hands on some of that killer Fentanyl from the Mexico-China connection, you’re probably going to weather out one more life-threatening crisis along with me.

Whew! That was a close one. What’s next? I have no idea. But in order to know better next time, maybe it would be a good idea to sort through how the new media, with their power-hungry friends in the federal government, concocted this current line of baloney.


The Origin of the “Crisis”

According to reliable sources, pharmacists, and disinterested experts in the field, the rate of opioid drug abuse in the U.S. has not increased for the past 12 years. The rate of death has indeed increased, but primarily as a result of a tainted batch of Chinese-Mexican Fentanyl that made its way to America’s streets during the past decade.

Every good scam has at least a grain of truth to it, and this opioid charade is no different. Yes, doctors have probably over-prescribed these “pain drugs” since at least the mid-1990s, and yes, there are likely too many people currently taking opioids. But that does not mean that the American populace is like keg of borderline heroin addicts waiting to mainline the first chance they get.

For one thing, opioids aren’t as addictive as the media would like us to believe. People who are prescribed opioids long-term almost never, ever develop anything like a hard-core drug addiction. Of course there are many thousands of people who have a problem with addictive drugs, prescription and illicit ones. This is indeed a major problem for law enforcement and the medical community, and they’re been doing their best to deal with it for decades.

The sad fact about the ginned-up opioid non-crisis is that most of the hype is for the sake of news ratings. Another reason for the “pushing” of the crisis (and that’s the perfect word for how it’s being presented) is to give politicians a new reason to write more drug laws. The entire phony scenario feeds right into the hands of the “war on drugs” mentality, one of the most deceptive and harmful lies of the past half-century.


Persistent Myths are the More Dangerous Plague

Last year the U.S. House passed more than 20 bills to deal with the “opioid crisis,” even though illicit (non-prescribed) use of opioids probably reached a high point in 2012 and has abated each year since. This data is easily obtainable on the website of the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

While opioid-abuse deaths did increase, hitting nearly 30,000 in the year 2014, it must be noted that more than 90 percent of those deaths were NOT a result of straight opioid abuse, but rather from the mixing of opioids with other illegal street drugs.

What’s almost never mentioned in mainstream news media stories is the fact that opioid deaths are a very rare occurrence for long-term users of the drugs. In fact, the risk of death, even among long-term users, is about two-tenths of one percent.

Is it likely you’ll become addicted to opioids if you take them for more than several months? No. The “addiction rate” is less than 1 percent, which doesn’t rank anywhere near the “epidemic” stage. The typical scenario depicted in screaming headlines and hyped TV specials is a fantasy. The fake story goes something like this: Jill visits the doctor and complains of pain. The negligent, money-hungry doctor can’t be bothered with Jill’s case so she just prescribes some opioids to make the meddlesome patient go home. Jill takes the drugs. Jill gets addicted. Jill can’t get more from the doctor, so Jill locates the neighborhood heroin dealer and is now a full-blown, suburban junkie.

The story, as ridiculous as it sounds, is repeated on some form over and over on the nightly news, in ballyhooed specials, and by “anti-drug” politicians. The reality is this: About 80 percent of all users of illicit opioids, including heroin, never had a doctor’s prescription to begin with. Think back on the last time you were prescribed an opioid. Did you become addicted? If you’re like 97 percent of everyone else in that same situation, you did not. You took the meds, maybe caught a nice buzz or two, finished the prescription, and went back to your daily routine. The fact is that very few people want anything to do with long-term drug use, contrary to what Hollywood and the news media would like us to believe.

According to the same data from the NSDUH, even among those who use illicit drugs, heroin appeals to a tiny number of users. Opioids, a milder form of pure heroin, are much the same. Sure, they “feel good” and get the job done if you have severe back pain, but human beings just don’t gravitate to this class of drugs.

The “lighter” forms of drugs are a different story, which might be why alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and cannabis are so popular. But that’s a far cry from saying that “America is in the throes of an opioid epidemic.”


Get a Real Drug Education Here: Videos, Websites, and Books

The following resources include videos, books and websites that offer additional information. Simply click on the hyperlinked resource title and you’ll be able to go directly to a live link for that particular item. Most book listings are from major online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. All video links are sources from YouTube. Website links for the most part are informational, like WebMD, Wikipedia, and other authoritative business, health and medical resources.

“Pharmacy Times” Video: It’s the Fentanyl

Here is a professional pharmacist explaining in clear terms that there is certainly not an opioid epidemic in the U.S. There never was, and probably never will be one either. Get the low-down on pill-making machinery sourced in China and then sent to Mexico to whip up billions of illicit, impure, cheap Fentanyl, one of the most powerful members of the opioid family.

This one video will put 95 percent of the fake media hype about a “national crisis” and a “widespread epidemic” to rest. The doctor lays out the facts, the myths, and the reality of what has already become yet another “news myth” based on a phantom drug scare.

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

This is one of the very best accounts of how the federal government’s “war on drugs” has had the opposite effect from its stated intention. In other words, after billions of dollars were spent to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S., there are now more drugs, more drug addicts, fewer treatment options, more ineffective laws, and more wasted money than ever before.

Chasing the Scream is different than the majority of drug books that tout a bigger “war” and more “enforcement personnel.” This is the real story of how key battles in the war on drugs were directly responsible for the sorry situation that exists today, where too many addicts can’t get treatment and huge numbers of low-level sellers and buyers are jailed for years on end to no good effect.

Foreign Language Film: Oscar Winner “Christiane F”

Watch it with or without English subtitles, this riveting true story won an Oscar way back in the 1980s, and deserved every ounce of it. The girl in question, Christiane F., became a heroin addict at a time when that drug really was enjoying a surge of sorts among the young hipsters in Germany’s club scene.

Now 55 and having survived a life that has seen her use most every hard drug in existence, Christiane Felscherinow’s story has been required reading in most European and Asian schools to warn children about the life to the drug addict. Sadly, the movie and book were too hot of a political topic for most U.S. schools, but now that the film is available online, it’s worth watching. Her story shows what life is like for young people who build their entire lives around opiates. The film is not for the squeamish.

A Surgeon Tells the Truth About Opioid Prescriptions

Here is another counter-attack against the web of lies told by the media about the bogus “epidemic” of opioid use. A surgeon explains how and why opioids are so readily prescribed by doctors, what you can do about it, and where the nation is headed as a result of current drug wars and pharmaceutical laws.

Drug Problem? Here’s Where to Get Help Fast

GoodTherapy helps people find therapists and promotes ethical drug treatment all over the world. One of their best online resources is a listing of the 10 best websites for learning about addiction. Armed with hotlines, lists of clinics, and names of actual doctors and social workers who are ready to chat with hurting souls, GoodTherapy’s highly useful website is one of the very best at what it does. If you or someone you know needs information about drug abuse treatment, there is no better resource online. There are lots of sites like this one, but the consensus seems to be that GoodTherapy is the one to visit if you are suffering.


Heard on the Street: Common Slang Names for Opioids

Here’s a comprehensive rundown of street names for various opioids, should you ever need to know what to say no to:


Opium comes directly from the poppy plant’s unripe seed juice. It’s usually yellow or brown or black, or some combination of those colors in its natural state. Medically, this solid/sticky substance is routinely used as a pain drug. For casual/illicit users, the drug is used to induce a state of euphoria or complete calm. Though it can be either eaten or smoked, it usually goes by one of the following slang terms on the street:

Big O, Black stuff, Block, Gum, Hop, Dover’s powder


This extremely addictive drug is sometimes described as looking like tar, and can be just about any color on the spectrum from pitch black to bright white. Usually, the more impurities in the drug, the darker its color, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Pure heroin is typically white, but sellers have been known to mix the drug with things like flour and sugar to make low-grade powder appear whiter and purer. There are no medical uses for heroin, and it is almost always taken in one of three ways: by smoking, by injection, or by snorting it up the nose. Below are some of the common street names for heroin:

Dope, Smack, H, Train, Thunder, Black tar, China white horse, Junk, Antifreeze, Brown ugar, Henry, Horse, Skag, Hero, Hell dust


This potent painkiller and narcotic is like a super-powerful version of morphine. It’s sometimes twice as strong as common morphine, and is often used in medical settings for chronic pain due to cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The sheer power of the drug is cause for concern, as just tiny amounts of the dust or liquid can set off an immediate reaction in an unsuspecting person who accidentally touches it.

Fentanyl’s street versions are sometimes so strong that mere contact with them can be deadly. There is currently a “bad batch” of Fentanyl circulating in the U.S. It is thought to be one of the main reasons there have been increases in opioid-related deaths. Street names for Fentanyl change constantly and vary by region. Here are some of the more permanent ones used nationwide:

Apache, China girl, China white, Dance fever, Friend, Goodfella, King ivory, Murder 8,    TNT, Tango, Cash


Medically used for post-surgery and other severe forms of pain, morphine comes in many forms, like tablets, liquid and powders of varying coarseness. Opium’s most important and profitable component, morphine can be swallowed, eaten, smoked or inhaled directly. Its street names are:

M, Miss Emma, Monkey, White stuff, Dreamer

Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Codeine

These three drugs are common painkillers and are known to millions of patients who get them from their doctors on a regular basis. Codeine is not as strong as the others and is usually combined with other drugs when prescribed. Hydrocodone is the primary ingredient of Lortab, Lorcet and Vicodin. Oxycodone is commonly called OxyContin when prescribed. While all of these drugs are addictive, they are some of the most prescribed drugs in modern medicine. Here are there street names:

For codeine:

Schoolboy, Cough syrup, T-three’s (Tylenol #3 with codeine)

For hydrocodone:

Vikes, Viko, Norco, Hydro

For oxycodone:

Ox, Oxicotten, Oxycet

Figure 2: Common generic and brand-name opioid drugs


Heard in the Pharmacy and Treatment Center

(Opiate terms from HowToKickHeroin’s website)

Would you like to know all the “official” names of opioids as well as many of the associated terms used in drug-addiction medical practices? Here is a comprehensive list from the website HowToKickHeroin. It offers a clear definition, in lay terms, for most of the known forms of opioid drugs.

Abuse: Improper use

Addiction: To use a chemical substance compulsively and uncontrollably.

Addiction Liability: The tendency of a chemical substance to produce addiction. There are two prototypical classes of drugs that commonly result in addiction; psychomotor stimulants and opiates.

Alkaloid: An organic compound that comes from a plant and has physiological effects on humans.

Antitussive: Cough suppressant.

Arousable: Able to awaken.

Butrans: A brand name buprenorphine based transdermal patch.

Ceiling effect: Buprenorphine has limited Activity at the mu opioid receptor. In addition there are a finite number of mu receptors. These two factors limit buprenorphine’s narcotic effects. Even if the dose of buprenorphine rises to maximum levels there is generally no difference in euphoria, analgesia, or respiratory depression.

Charles Romley Alder Wright (1844 – 25 July 1894) was an English chemistry researcher at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington, England. C. R. Alder Wright is the person who invented heroin.

Codeine: (C18H21NO3) Also known as 3-methylmorphine, is a narcotic alkaloid found within the Papaver Somniferum poppy plant. As such it is an opiate and is used to treat pain, coughing (antitussive) and diarrhea.

DEA: Drug Enforcement Administration

Diacetylmorphine: The scientific name for heroin.

Diamorphine: The proper name for heroin in Britain.

Dissociation: The rate or likelihood that a drug dissociates i.e. uncouples from a receptor.

Drug abuse: To use a chemical substance wrongly or improperly.

Drug overdose: Consumption of excessive and dangerous amounts of a drug.

Fentanyl: A synthetic full agonist opioid that is 40-50 times stronger than pharmaceutical grade diacetylmorphine aka heroin.

Heroin: Heroin, scientifically known as diacetylmorphine, is a highly addictive Schedule I drug. Heroin is a heavily abused and extremely potent semi-synthetic opioid processed from morphine.

Heroin abuse: Illegal or improper use of heroin.

Heroin addiction: Tenacious seeking or using of heroin despite adverse consequences.

Heroin dependence: Susceptible to withdrawal upon cessation of heroin.

Hydromorphone: Is a semi-synthetic opioid drug derived from morphine.

Hyperalgesia: A paradoxical phenomenon whereby long-term opioid use increases pain sensitivity.

IV: Intravenous i.e. into a vein.

Morphine (MOR): A naturally-occurring narcotic alkaloid of the poppy plant – Papaver Somniferum poppy plant. As such it is an opiate and is used to treat pain, coughing (antitussive) and diarrhea.

Naloxone: A semi-synthetic potent opioid antagonist made from Thebaine.

Opiate: Morphine or Codeine: Any chemical substance(s) with narcotic properties produced by the Papaver Somniferum poppy plant including Opium.

Opioid: any chemical substance, either natural or synthetic, with morphine-like properties.

Opium: any chemical substance, either natural or synthetic, with morphine-like properties.

Overdose: (see drug overdose)

Oxycodone: Is a powerful semi-synthetic opioid processed from Thebaine.

Papaver Somniferum: The opium poppy is the source of many drugs, including morphine and codeine.

Percocet: An opioid painkiller that combines acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller. Acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever.

Psychoactive: A chemical substance that alters brain function and consciousness.

Respiratory Depression: Respiratory depression is a condition whereby your lungs do not release enough oxygen into your blood. Respiratory depression is a medical condition that can quickly get worse, which may lead to respiratory failure.

Respiratory failure: A physical condition whereby your lungs do not release any oxygen into your blood.

Synthetic Opioid: A chemical substance that has both Affinity and Activity with mu opioid receptors, that is synthesized completely artificially.

Thebaine: A poisonous alkaloid of Papaver Somniferum that is also found in raw opium.

Teryak: Afghani raw opium.

Unarousable: Unable to awaken.

Unresponsive: A person who is unresponsive does not respond or react to commands or stimulus, e.g. pain. Shout, “Are you okay!”

Vivitrol: Is an injectable form of naltrexone, a medication used to block opioid receptors from opiates and synthetic analogs.

Zohydro ER: A long-acting opioid pain medication. It is indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment.

Zubsolv: A brand name buprenorphine/naloxone tablet made by Orexo US, Inc.


Is Your Prescription Drug On This List?

The following comprehensive list of opioids can help you identify whether a particular medication you’re taking is in fact an opioid. If it is, and you want to know why you’ve been prescribed a potentially dangerous drug, be sure to speak with your doctor about possibly substituting a non-opioid medication.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is in danger of developing an opioid addition, ask your doctor’s office for a local organization that can help you deal with the situation.

When you need attention or help for substance abuse and/or mental disorders, contact the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-HELP. SAMHSA is the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Their website is located here.

If you contact a helpline or local organization, it is good to know the exact name of the opioid in question. The list below, courtesy of RehabCenter, allows for easy identification of most common opioid medicines prescribed in the U.S.

RehabCenter’s website offers a free service that can help anyone find a rehabilitation facility in their own city or state. According to the center’s own materials:

“Addiction can strike anyone, and when it does, you feel every part of your life is spinning out of control. Your friends won’t call you, your finances are a mess, and your job feels like a nightmare. When all that matters is your next high, you’ve stopped living. Where can you turn to for help?

A drug or alcohol problem is not a death sentence—you can get your life back and be the person you were meant to be. The benefits of recovery include a renewed outlook, a wiser disposition, and a more energetic and ambitious you.

You don’t have to fight addiction alone. is the Web’s most comprehensive guide to quality rehab centers and addiction treatment. We offer free and confidential information about the many effective and empowering rehab options available today.”

Brand-name opioids:

Abstral (fentanyl)

Actiq (fentanyl)

Avinza (morphine sulfate extended-release capsules)

Butrans (buprenorphine transdermal system)

Demerol (meperidine [also known as isonipecaine or pethidine])

Dilaudid (hydromorphone [also known as dihydromorphinone])

Dolophine (methadone hydrochloride tablets)

Duragesic (fentanyl transdermal system)

Fentora (fentanyl)

Hysingla (hydrocodone)

Methadose (methadone)

Morphabond (morphine)

Nucynta ER (tapentadol extended-release oral tablets)

Onsolis (fentanyl)

Oramorph (morphine)

Oxaydo (oxycodone)

Roxanol-T (morphine)

Sublimaze (fentanyl)

Xtampza ER (oxycodone)

Zohydro ER (hydrocodone)

Opioid medications that are combined with other drugs:

Anexsia (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Co-Gesic (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Embeda (morphine sulfate and naltrexone extended-release capsules)

Exalgo (hydromorphone hydrochloride extended-release tablets)

Hycet (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Hycodan (hydrocodone containing homatropine)

Hydromet (hydrocodone containing homatropine)

Ibudone (hydrocodone containing ibuprofen)

Kadian (morphine sulfate extended-release tablets)

Liquicet (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Lorcet (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Lorcet Plus (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Lortab (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Maxidone (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

MS Contin (morphine sulfate controlled-release tablets)

Norco (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Opana ER (oxymorphone hydrochloride extended-release tablets)

OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride controlled-release tablets)

Oxycet (oxycodone containing acetaminophen)

Palladone (hydromorphone hydrochloride extended-release capsules)

Percocet (oxycodone containing acetaminophen)

Percodan (oxycodone containing aspirin)

Reprexain (hydrocodone containing ibuprofen)

Rezira (hydrocodone containing pseudoephedrine)

Roxicet (oxycodone containing acetaminophen)

Targiniq ER (oxycodone containing naloxone)

TussiCaps (hydrocodone containing chlorpheniramine)

Tussionex (hydrocodone containing chlorpheniramine)

Tuzistra XR (codeine containing chlorpheniramine)

Tylenol #3 and #4 (codeine containing acetaminophen)

Vicodin (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Vicodin ES (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Vicodin HP (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Vicoprofen (hydrocodone containing ibuprofen)

Vituz (hydrocodone containing chlorpheniramine)

Xartemis XR (oxycodone containing acetaminophen)

Xodol (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Zolvit (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)

Zutripro (hydrocodone with chlorpheniramine and pseudoephedrine)

Zydone (hydrocodone containing acetaminophen)


Fentanyl (fentanyl extended-release transdermal system)

Methadone hydrochloride (methadone hydrochloride)

Morphine sulfate (morphine sulfate extended-release)

Oxymorphone hydrochloride (oxymorphone hydrochloride tablets)


Where to Go From Here

Rather than declare a “state of emergency,” as the Governor of Maryland recently did, a smarter way might be to encourage doctors not to prescribe so many pain drugs unless a person actually suffers chronic pain. At least some of the blame for the rise in opioid use must be laid at the feet of patients who misrepresent their situation (that’s a nice way of saying “lie”) to their doctors in order to get a stronger prescription than they need.

Finally, while the majority of opioid drug deaths can be directly attributed to the dealers who sell dirty Fentanyl on the streets of the U.S., we should all remember that it takes two to make a business transaction. For people who want to avoid getting hooked on opioids and subsequently dying from some spiked Chinese-Mexican happy pills, the solution is simple: never asks a doctor for an opioid unless you are in pain. Take your 10-day supply as directed and never keep any “extra” or give them to anyone else.

If you have children, lock all your prescription drugs in a secure area and destroy any pills you end up not needing.

We do not offer medical advice, so if you have a concern about your state of health, be sure to speak with a physician or other medical professional. This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be any kind of official medical guidance.

However, we do value your comments and opinions, so please leave some feedback in the space below. Or, visit our Facebook page and contribute a comment or two. We always enjoy hearing from our readers and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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