The opioid epidemic has been a growing concern in the United States for decades. Unfortunately, one of the many dangers of addiction is that individuals don't always recognize signs of addiction within themselves. Consequently, they may not realize that they are affected by the American opioid epidemic. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and risks of opioid addiction can help individuals recognize their struggles and seek treatment immediately.
NorthStar Transitions offers treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders. Treatment is provided through a team of competent clinicians and support staff. Individuals seeking treatment will have access to day treatment, residential or outpatient programs with a combination of traditional clinical practices and experimental therapies, as well as aftercare support. If you are struggling with opioid addiction, seek help today.
What Are Opioids?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes opioids as substances naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Additionally, opioids are a class of drugs that includes an array of substances, such as "the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription." Opioid drugs can be used clinically or recreationally, providing several effects.
One of those desired effects is pain relief, which is why prescription opioids are frequently used in medical settings as painkillers. Common examples of legally prescribable opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine.
Prescription Opioids and the American Opioid Epidemic
Doctors prescribe opioids for several reasons, most frequently to relieve pain. When prescribed opioid medication, individuals are given specific instructions to follow regarding their consumption of prescription medications. Unfortunately, some people do not follow these instructions carefully and begin misusing their prescriptions, further perpetuating the American opioid epidemic.
Ways people misuse prescription opioids—whether intentionally or unintentionally—include:
- Taking medication in a way other than prescribed, such as an increased dosage
- Using someone else's prescription
- Taking their prescribed medications, not for pain relief but to get high
Potential Effects of Misusing Prescription Opioids
Prescription opioids can be safe when taken as prescribed. However, like most medications, opioids have potential side effects. When misused, prescription opioids can have many harmful consequences on the brain and body.
Some of the potential effects of prescription opioids from the NIDA are:
- Feelings of pleasure or euphoria due to the release of dopamine cause individuals to want to use more
- Slowed breathing, which can lead to hypoxia and cause several other adverse psychological and neurological complications
- The development of other chronic diseases
- Dependency on prescription drugs, which can be a gateway to using other dangerous substances
Recognizing the Signs of Prescription Addiction
Prescription drug addiction is hard for people to recognize since, most times, their reasoning for using prescription opioids is legitimate. However, due to the rise in prescription drug addiction, people must learn to recognize the signs to continue fighting the American opioid epidemic.
Indicators that you may be addicted to prescription medication include:
- Taking larger doses than needed or instructed
- The inability to stop taking prescription opioids or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back
- Failure to focus on personal or professional responsibilities
- Partaking in actions needed to obtain drugs, like stealing medications or using a prescription that is not yours
- Experiencing a high tolerance and needing to take the drug in higher doses or more frequently
If you recognize any of these signs within yourself or someone you love, consider professional help immediately.
The American Opioid Epidemic
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s convinced medical professionals that "patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers." Well, a few decades later and we know this to be completely untrue. The number of people struggling with opioid addiction is staggering. Millions of Americans are struggling with opioid use disorder, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths in 2020."
A contributing factor to the opioid epidemic is how much access individuals have to opioids. Unfortunately, when people no longer have access to prescription medication, they may turn to illicit opioids, like heroin.
Heroin alone is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. However, it is often laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes as being "50-100 times stronger than morphine." With fentanyl now another concern, the opioid epidemic has never been more deadly.
Treating Opioid Addiction
The sad reality is that many first-time users of fentanyl-laced heroin have experienced an overdose, and with growing access, many feel like they do not have a chance at recovery. However, despite the statistics, treatment and recovery are possible.
Some treatment options available include:
The American opioid epidemic continues to ruin the lives of millions and take many of these lives. Do not allow yourself or someone you love to become a statistic—seek treatment today.
The American opioid epidemic has ravaged the lives of millions for decades. Access to drugs like heroin, often laced with fentanyl, causes thousands of lives to be lost annually to an opioid-related drug overdose. To decrease the staggering numbers of people addicted to opioids, we must educate and provide access to competent addiction treatment. That means helping people recognize the signs of opioid addiction and encouraging them to seek help. NorthStar Transitions has professionals and programs that help people recover from all kinds of addictions, including opioid addiction. With our help, you or your loved one can break free of the grip of opioid use disorder. To learn more, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400 today.