The opioid epidemic has been in full swing in America for over half a decade, as the uses of prescription and non-prescription drugs are currently climbing to an all-time high. Painkillers such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone have plagued the country, and accidental overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under 50 years of age. Unfortunately, Nebraska is not exempt from these alarming statistics. 

Although Nebraska does not have the level of opioid problems as states such as West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky do, the state nevertheless has experienced a climb in opioid-related deaths in recent years. Many citizens fear that the opioid trend currently sweeping through the southeast region of the United States will eventually affect Nebraska, as officials have already warned the public of the spike in heroin use in the state, as well.

Potential Causes

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that, while drugs such as cocaine can potentially raise an individual’s chances of becoming addicted to prescription drugs, Nebraska officials point out that the primary source of addiction begins with legal, prescribed medicines used to treat chronic pain. Officials have worked to create awareness of the epidemic that claimed 14,000 lives in 2014. The Lincoln article states that some of the drug take-backs, events in which individuals may dispose of drugs, were a result of over-prescribing. As a result, lawmakers created a drug monitoring program that now requires dispensers to record all prescriptions for controlled substances.

Possible Solutions

Since the opioid epidemic’s outbreak, state officials have continuously worked to prevent and respond to prescription drug abuse. In addition to drug monitoring programs, the University of Nebraska Medical Center revealed that the Nebraska Attorney General, the UNMC and the U.S. Attorney’s office is developing a unified approach between law enforcement and medical companies regarding addiction prevention and treatment. Officials hope to both drastically reduce the incidence of prescription opioid abuse and expand treatment for those addicted.