President Donald Trump declared the opioid abuse problem a public health emergency at the White House Thursday.
Trump referred to the crisis as a â€œnational shameâ€ and â€œhuman tragedyâ€ at the press conference. A public health emergency only lasts up to 90 days until it must be renewed, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
At the press conference, Trump committed himself and his administration to fighting the opioid epidemic.
â€œWe can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic â€“ we can do it,â€ Trump said.
Drugs such as heroin, codeine and morphine are some of the most notable drugs classified as opioids, as well as legal prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Drug overdoses claimed more than 59,000 lives in the United States in 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This number is higher than the total number of U.S. military casualties during the Vietnam War, which reached 58,220. Over 30,000 of those overdoses in 2016 were from opioids.
â€œThe most dangerous opiate right now is fentanyl, which is 50 times more dangerous than crack cocaine,â€ said Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and one of the first board-certified addiction medicine doctors in the U.S.
Fentanyl is used to treat acute pain in its patients and is also used for anesthesia, and drug dealers also sell knock-off products similar to their real counterparts, Sumrok said.
Drug overdoses in the state increased from 1,451 in 2015 to 1,631 in 2016, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. Deaths from fentanyl in Tennessee increased from 169 in 2015 to 294 in 2016.
Prescription opioids are grown industrial with the same effects of legal opioids. These opioids are highly addictive drugs that release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brainâ€™s reward and pleasure center, Sumrok said. Opium is highly addictive and, when mixed with other street drugs, can be fatal.
Taking the drug for more than one week can leave a person in a withdrawal mode, leading to withdrawal symptoms such as stomach pain, aching bones and intense sweat during sleep, Sumrok said. The drug can give users a â€œsleepyâ€ feeling, which can make them pass out, press the breathing center in the brain and might lead to death.