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The 3 Waves of the Opioid Epidemic


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.