The opioid epidemic came about in the late 1990s and was characterized by the abuse, misuse, and addiction to opioids. Some common Opioids include Codeine, Demerol, Dilaudid Fentanyl, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Methadone, Morphine, and Oxycodone. This resulted in a growing number of deaths and hospitalization as well as an increase in crime and insecurity. In the US alone, opioids cause approximately 40,000 deaths annually, an average of 115 deaths daily.
The situation was further exacerbated by an increase in opioid production by pharmaceutical companies and more physicians prescribing their use under the belief that they were safer and less addictive than morphine. Reports indicate that the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors in the year 1992 was 112 million which exponentially increased to 282 million in 2014 and reduced to 236 million in 2016. The growth of prescriptions significantly increased their distribution and subsequent abuse and addiction due to easy accessibility. Many users develop a dependency on the drugs as they are highly addictive and are faced with the option of going through undesirable withdrawal symptoms or looking for other alternatives.
Opioids are highly effective in the management of mild to severe pain and most people will receive a prescription along the course of their lives. A few important things to know include:
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Dependence and Addiction and Seek Help Immediately
As previously mentioned, opioids are highly addictive and you can easily develop a dependence on them. An important way of preventing this is by following the doctor’s instructions regarding the prescription and not sharing your medication with anyone else. Another key thing is watching out for signs of dependence such as impulsively seeking the drugs even when your pain has gone away, misusing the drugs so that you are constantly ‘high’ which can include taking more than the recommended dosage, using desperate means such as stealing someone else’s medication or using fake prescriptions.
There are also physical symptoms to look out for like increased heart and breathing rate, craving the drug, and sweating profusely. The sooner the issue is captured and addressed the better the prognosis. Unchecked dependence and addiction may result in users switching from prescription opioids to synthetic alternatives such as heroin which are deadly.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction Requires Medical Attention.
It’s important to provide medical assistance to those that are addicted to opioid. Treatment is available in hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the country. Medication-assisted treatment, the standard method of treating opioid addiction, combines medication, counseling, and psychosocial support. Opioid users and those in contact with them should have emergency contacts that can assist in severe cases such as drug overdose.
Everyone Has a Role to Play in the Opioid Epidemic.
The epidemic can be managed successfully if everyone participates in the fight against it. Some measures include better policies by policymakers that improve access to treatment and recovery services. Experts can conduct more research on addiction and develop other less addictive means of managing pain, increasing awareness across communities to help prevent misuse and addiction. Communities can also offer more support to those impacted and in recovery without discrimination and judgment.