The opioid crisis is one of the worst epidemics to hit the United States.

At any given time, it’s been reported that more than 2.4 million Americans abuse opioids.  A December 21, 2017 AP article noted that deaths from drug overdoses skyrocketed 21% in 2016.

Two-thirds of those drug deaths – about 42,000 – involved opioids, a category that includes heroin, methadone, and prescription pain pills like Oxycontin and fentanyl.  Fatal overdoses that involved fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs doubled in one year, to more than 19,000, mostly from illegally made pills or powder, which is often mixed with heroin or other drugs.

That is why President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency.”

“We have to be careful because there’s a drug epidemic the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country,” he added.  “I will be pushing the concept of non addictive painkillers very, very hard.  We’re going to be spending lots of money on coming up with non-addictive solutions.”

Last week, the President hosted the White House Opioid Summit, where he said he was inclined to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because of the drugs’ potential to kill so many.

As the President ramps up his fight against opioids, related stocks are seeing momentum.

For example, Pain Therapeutics (PTIE), ran from $4 to $9 because the FDA recently accepted its new drug REMOXY ER for review in August.

Pain Therapeutics developed REMOXY ER as an abuse-deterrent, extended-release, capsule formulation of oxycodone, a prescription drug for severe pain.  REMOXY ER is designed to make oxycodone difficult to abuse yet provide 12 hours of steady pain relief when used appropriately by patients with pain.  REMOXY ER has a thick, sticky, high-viscosity capsule formulation designed to deter unapproved routes of drug administration, such as injection, snorting or smoking.

However, PTIE isn’t the only hot opioid-related stock to watch.

Cara Therapeutics (CARA) for example is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing new chemical entities designed to alleviate pain and pruritus by selectively targeting peripheral kappa opioid receptors without targeting CNS cannabinoid receptors.

Recently the stock jumped from $12 to $16.

We can also look at Alkeremes Inc. (ALKS).  One of ALKS’ leading drugs – Vivitrol – treats opioid addiction. And CEO Richard Pops strongly believes, “the bet days of Vivitrol are still ahead of it. It’s building into becoming one of the more important medicines for the treatment of this condition.”

As CNBC reports, “The injection is meant for detoxed patients who want to avoid relapsing to physical dependence on opioids, a treatment long viewed as an "outlier" next to more traditional medicines.” And, as the number of related deaths rises, the company is beginning to see the drug take center stage as a “reliable and effective treatment.”

ALKS ran from $54 to $67.

As the opioid story heats up, The Cheap Investor will keep you up to date.  Stay tuned.