Travis was addicted to opioids [OH-pee-oydz], a class of deadly drugs that includes Vicodin, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl. His story is not uncommon. Opioid use has soared in the past two decades, and overdoses killed about 130 Americans a day in 2018.
For many people, the doctor’s office is where their addiction begins. In the 1990s, drug companies encouraged doctors to prescribe new opioid drugs to treat pain. As a result, doctors gave patients pills like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet. The drugmakers insisted these medicines were safe.
Today, we know the opposite is true. Studies show that 10 percent of people who start using opioids have difficulty stopping. Teen athletes go to the doctor with knee injuries. Adults go to the hospital for surgery. They return home with OxyContin or another painkiller—and get hooked. When they run out of the pills, they attempt to buy them illegally.
People who become addicted often end up turning to cheaper, more dangerous drugs like heroin. Luke’s mom saw Travis experience this downward spiral. “The pain pills were $30 a pill, and he needed three a day,” she explains. “He couldn’t afford it, so he tried heroin.”