In the 2000s the US was hit with an opioid epidemic, caused mainly by the overprescribing of the drug for pain management.
“In 2011, there were 230 million prescriptions in one year, in the United States, which is a massive amount of opioids. And, it was believed that if you had pain, that you would not become addicted to your pain medications, which led doctors to become very complacent and overprescribe,” said Nora D. Volkow, MD, director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, at the American Psychiatric Association 2018 Annual Meeting.
With the realization that physician prescribing habits were adding to the epidemic, the number of patients for which opioids were being prescribed drastically decreased, and access to opioids became increasingly difficult.
However, with limited access to opioids, patients who had already developed addictions were now moving on to heroin use, at a time when heroin prices were dropping.