The Opioid Epidemic: America’s Deadly Addiction

From a Lecture Series Presented by Professor Thad Polk, Ph.D.

Due to the recent opioid epidemic, the number of overdose deaths in the United States averages about 175 per day. This means that drug overdoses are now the single most common cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. What are the causes behind this devastating crisis?

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Professor Thad Polk attributes one of the causes of the epidemic to an increase in pharmaceutical companies and doctors advocating their use for chronic pain in the 1990s. In The Opioid Epidemic: America’s Deadly Addiction, we join award-winning professor of psychology to explore these shocking numbers as he delves into how opioids affect our brains, why they are so addictive, and what we can do to counter this crisis.

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Watch “The Opioid Epidemic: America’s Deadly Addiction” on The Great Courses Plus

Some Surprising Stats About the Opioid Epidemic:

  • In 2012 Doctors prescribed enough opioid prescriptions for every adult to have their own supply for an entire month.
  • In 2016, 12 states had recorded more prescriptions for painkillers than there were people.
  • 25% of people who are prescribed an opioid drug end up misusing it.
  • Over 2 million Americans are estimated to be addicted to opioids.
  • The term “gateway drug” is extremely relevant when it comes to opioids. 80% of heroin addicts turned to it after previously misusing a prescription painkiller.
Professor Thad Polk is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. His course The Addictive Brain is available to stream now at The Great Courses Plus.

Keep Reading:
The Opioid Crisis: Fentanyl and The Dangers of Synthetic Opioids
The Science of Addiction: Why Are Opioids So Addictive?
Understanding Opioid Addiction: The Science of Addiction and Treatments