It starts off as a single pill. A young patient is in pain after having a simple wisdom tooth extraction, and a parent supplies them with their prescribed opioid pain medication. The intention is to ease their child’s discomfort. Still, if they forget to tell their child the medication instructions or how important it is not to abuse these pills, it can lead to something worse. They may not even know the dangers of prescription drugs. The lack of awareness is what causes the opioids crisis to grow in America. Drugs like OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Methadone seem harmless and easy enough to give to a 16-year-old. However, these opioid drugs are powerful and can create an addiction. They should not be left in the hands of a teenager or adult who cannot tell themselves to stop. The misuse of prescription opioid drugs can lead to fatal consequences and long-lasting side effects.
In 2016, research studies showed that over 100,000 young adults fall prey to prescription drugs. The following year in 2017, the CDC announced that over 40,000 overdose deaths were due to the growing opioid crisis. Overall from 1999 – 2017, at least 218,000 people died from opioids drugs in America, and this problem is only increasing.
The intent of opioids when doctors prescribe them is to help their patients deal with different types of pain occurring due to medical procedures or other ailments. Doctors will advise the proper dosage, and patients may unknowingly disregard them when they start popping back pills. Opioids have a long history of being addictive, and they are deadly when misused.
Opioid drugs work on canceling out the pain sensors in the brain and cause your pleasure sensors to activate. It’s due to this quality that makes this drug so addicting. It creates a “high” by giving its user pleasure. However, the repercussions can lead to overdosing or untimely death. One of the first side effects of opioids is users finding that their initial dose is no longer enough. The more opioids are used, the higher a person’s tolerance becomes. This leads a patient further into addiction as they realize the regular prescription dose in no longer sufficient. The users then find out that they have increased sensitivity to pain. The more opioid drugs that a drug user takes, the more sensitive they can become. When users feel more pain, they may compensate by taking more opioids to help mask the sensitivity, which can also lead to a dependence on the drug.
With that being stated, we head to the next significant side effect of opioids. This drug can harm the user if taken for an extended period, and it also is incredibly addictive. Together it means that opioids cause a physical dependence, which means an opioid user will go through withdrawal symptoms if they do not take these drugs regularly. This side effect is one of the main contributors that lead opioid users to start taking heroin. The CDC reports that people who are addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to begin using heroin. This drug is potentially more dangerous than prescription drugs and is cheaper than opioids. Prescription opioids are the gateway drug for heroin and other toxic substances. There are other significant side effects, but these three are some of the major ones that help spiral a regular patient on prescription medication towards the path of opioid misuse.
How then can we stop this growing opioid problem in America? The best way is by informing the public. By sharing the knowledge of opioids and their effects on the American population, we can help bring awareness to the dangers of prescription opioids. Parents and young adults should be advised about all the side effects of any drug they will be using. Most doctors are more than willing to help, but they are not sure what their patients do and do not know. It would help if there were more acknowledgment that these drugs can be harmful to the general public. The main people who are vulnerable to these drugs are young teens and adults who do not know how to recognize the signs of addiction or monitor their use of these opioids.
As we fight this growing addiction in America, doctors are now finding new ways to treat pain. These drugs no longer have to be the default option anymore. The CDC is trying to fight the opioid crisis in America by making information available on its website. By informing the public before they use these drugs prevents them from dealing with opioids addiction in the first place. Prevention is the first step towards the growing opioids epidemic. However, for some people, the problem has already happened. Some of the viable solutions are Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT). This is one option that allows the user to be weaned off their opioids in a controlled environment. Typically, MAT is used with different types of therapies as well to make sure all causes for the opioid addiction are addressed. Another significant contributor to the cure is research. Finding new and more effective ways to combat opioid addictions are always underway. Overdose reversing drugs and other medications would not be possible without someone in a lab coat dedicating their time to this field of study.
In 2017 the CDC reported over 193 million opioid prescriptions were distributed across America. The potential misuse, even by 1%, would be over 1 million people. Opioids are still a common pain killer prescribed by many doctors. One in four patients will become addicted to their prescriptions after long periods of time. This opioids crisis is still present in America and continues to be an issue. Opioids are easy to obtain and are so addicting. If the general public can take action and inform themselves to prevent addiction, so many lives can be saved. For those who are already addicted, becoming informed can help them overcome their problems and work on getting help to prevent their early death.