An opioid crisis gripped the U.S. long before President Trump declared it a public health emergency late last year.
Deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999, killing more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The opioid epidemic is now considered to be the deadliest drug overdose crisis in American history, and it is the driving force behind drug overdoses now being the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
How did this begin?
It began in the late 1990s, when doctors and health care providers started facing pressure to treat chronic pain more aggressively.
Advocates began encouraging doctors to treat pain as a “fifth vital sign” and recommended the long-term use of opioids — such as OxyContin — for all chronic pain.
At the same time, pharmaceutical companies began marketing these drugs to medical providers as not addictive or harmful.