Opioid abuse has become increasingly problematic in recent years, especially heroin.
Heroin, otherwise known as diacetylmorphine or diamorphine, was first synthesized in 1874. Bayer created the drug as a painkiller, with purely medicinal intentions. Known for its euphoric effects, heroin has been abused by people worldwide, causing astronomical numbers of overdoses every year.
The DEA recently issued a statement saying that it would cut back the production quota of Schedule I and Schedule II opioids by at least 25% in 2017. The quota for hydrocodone, commonly known by the brand names Vicodin or Lortab, will be cut by one third.
This cut comes from their decreased demand in hospitals. The DEA is also hopeful that this cutback will reduce the number of opioid-related deaths and overdoses.
Current records show that more people died from drug overdose in 2014 than in any other year on record. A total of 18,893 people died as a result of prescription drug overdose, and heroin killed 10,574 people that year. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have been blamed for killing many people as well, including musician Prince in April of this year.
DEA regulations encourage doctors to use non-opioid therapies over heavy narcotics to treat patients, minimizing the risk of medicinal drug addiction. These aggressive efforts, however, have been linked to increased drug-related deaths. When the U.S. government cracked down on prescription drug abuse, there was a surge in heroin use, leading us to where we are today.
“We always were concerned about heroin…We were always cognizant of the push-down, pop-up problem,” said Kevin Sabet, a former senior drug policy official in the Obama administration. “But we weren’t about to let these pill mills flourish in the name of worrying about something that hadn’t happened yet. …When crooks are putting on white coats and handing out pills like candy, how could we expect a responsible administration not to act?”
Despite their proven benefits, the DEA has not approved the use of more nontraditional medicines to combat today’s drug addiction epidemic.
Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug under DEA regulations. This means that it is considered as dangerous as heroin and LSD, and more dangerous than hydrocodone, oxycodone, and cocaine.
The organization refuses to reschedule cannabis, despite its proven abilities to reduce opioid overdose deaths and decrease narcotic dependence. Ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance, is also listed as a Schedule I drug, despite its promise in calming heroin addictions.