Nov. 4, 2023 – OxyContin was given out in unprecedented quantities: prescriptions peaked in 2012, at more than 255 million in the US over the year. This, and other comparable opioids such as Vicodin, created a vast new class of addicts, many of them in areas and social classes previously unaffected by such problems. By 2011, OxyContin was the leading cause of drug-related deaths in the US. This is known as the first wave of the crisis; it also drove the second wave, which resulted when many addicts, finding prescription painkillers too expensive or too difficult to buy, turned to heroin. A study of young urban injection-drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86% had used opioid painkillers before trying heroin. The illegal heroin trade expanded greatly to meet the new market, and from 2010 there was an increase in heroin overdoses. Then, around 2013, came the third wave of the crisis.


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