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Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Epidemic history and statistics

Opioid Addiction and the Epidemic

Opioid addiction and overdoses are killing Americans at staggering rates.

Over the past few years, there have been some successes in the opioid epidemic, but it remains a serious issue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, overdoses involving opioids take the lives of 128 people a day.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both legal, prescription substances and illegal substances.

Prescription pain medicines like oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioids.

These drugs relieve serious pain, often after an injury or surgery.

They typically are not meant to treat milder pain or chronic pain.

Heroin is another opioid. Heroin comes from opium, and it is an illegal opioid.

Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are among some of the biggest contributors to opioid addiction and deaths.

The Effects of Opioids

When someone takes an opioid, whether it is a prescription pain medicine or heroin, it affects their central nervous system. There are opioid receptors throughout our bodies. These drugs bind to those receptor sites. Shortly after taking an opioid, someone might experience pain relief and, at higher doses, euphoria or pleasant relaxation. Those pleasant feelings that come from opioids are known as being high. Just as one might research how to wean off Zoloft for antidepressant medications, understanding the effects and dependencies of opioids is crucial. Other effects of opioids include drowsiness, nausea or vomiting, pinpoint pupils, and sluggishness. Opioids slow the central nervous system. They are known as a central nervous system depressant.

Opioid Overdose

An overdose is when someone takes a dose of any opioid higher than their body and brain can handle. There may be a slowdown of the central nervous system that becomes dangerous or deadly.

When you overdose on opioids, your breathing slows down, and your heart rate and blood pressure decline as well. If you cannot get enough oxygen, you can die from an opioid overdose.

The high rate of opioid overdoses is why the current situation is known as the opioid epidemic or the opioid crisis.

Opioid addiction occurs because there is a reward cycle in the brain when you use these drugs. These drugs release large amounts of neurotransmitters like dopamine that make you feel good.

Our brains want the things that create pleasant feelings.

Eventually, due to the triggering of the reward cycle, your use of opioids may become compulsive. Your brain compels you to seek out and use these substances, even if you do not want to continue. For some people, opioid addiction can happen quickly. It can occur after using opioids only a few times.

The Numbers Behind the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic started in the 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies were marketing their prescription pain medicines to the medical community. In doing so, these companies said patients would not become addicted to the drugs.

Doctors and health care providers then started prescribing them at higher rates.

The increased prescription of opioids led to the abuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids before we knew how addictive these drugs were.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency because of opioid addiction and overdoses in 2017.

  • In 2019, more than 130 people died every day related to opioid overdoses
  • Around 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018
  • In 2019, 47,600 people died from opioid overdoses
  • Around two million people had an opioid use disorder in 2018

For some people, the misuse of prescription opioids led them to start using heroin. Heroin is cheaper and more potent.

What is Being Done About the Opioid Epidemic?

While some fear and apprehension are normal, it is important to get a hold of it.

Unchecked fears can lead to inaction and, consequently, relapse.

Too much fear can affect your decision-making, causing stress that diminishes your mental and physical health.

You might use fear as a way to justify a relapse, and you might not feel satisfied in your recovery.

Opioid Overdose Risks

The basics of what happens during an opioid overdose are shared above. When it comes to opioid addiction and the opioid epidemic, people must understand overdose risks. It is important for people who have loved ones with opioid addiction to understand what to do if an overdose happens.

Opioids cause breathing problems. When someone has an opioid addiction, they are likely to take high doses of these drugs, leading to death.

Symptoms of an opioid overdose include loss of consciousness, struggling with breathing, and pinpoint pupils.

Risk factors for opioid overdose include:

  • Having an opioid addiction, also known as an opioid use disorder
  • Injecting opioids
  • Relapsing and using opioids once again after a period of abstinence
  • Using prescription opioids in any way other than what the prescription says or without a prescription
  • Taking high doses of prescribed opioids
  • Using opioids with other substances that slow breathing such as alcohol or benzodiazepines

People who are most likely to witness someone overdosing on opioids include:

  • Individuals who also have an opioid addiction
  • Friends and family of someone who uses opioids
  • Health care workers and emergency services providers
  • People who work in high-risk communities

Opioid Addiction and Opioid Rehab

The opioid epidemic is a large-scale problem. We should take action on a global, national, local, and individual level.

At the individual level, we can address the problem by recognizing the signs of opioid addiction and overdose in our loved ones.

If you have a problem with opioids, you must be honest with yourself about the risks. You can take steps to get treatment. Drug rehab for opioid use disorder can help you live a healthier, safer, and more fulfilling life.

Steps of Opioid Addiction Rehab

When you have an opioid addiction, it is considered a complex but treatable disease.

Opioid addiction affects your brain, behavior, and physical health.

A rehab program needs to address all of these components.

An opioid addiction treatment program should look at you as a whole person.

You are more than your addiction.

You should also look for a drug rehab program that offers treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.

The general steps you might following during opioid rehab include:

  • Opioids lead to physical dependence. When you are physically dependent on opioids, you will likely go through withdrawal if you stop using them suddenly. Opioid withdrawal can range in intensity from mild to severe, and some symptoms can be challenging to handle. Medical detox can help you go through withdrawal safely and comfortably. You will be monitored and provided with treatment and care when needed.
  • Once you have fully detoxed, the next step of your treatment might be inpatient or residential rehab. Residential rehab provides a safe and focused environment. You are away from triggers, and you can think exclusively about working toward recovery. You participate in therapy throughout your treatment day and other holistic and supplemental treatments as well.
  • When someone completes inpatient treatment, they may begin ongoing care or outpatient rehab. You might also have an aftercare plan that includes participation in a 12-step group or another type of support program.

Everyone’s treatment journey with opioid addiction is unique.

Your treatment plan should be individualized, and it needs to evolve as your needs require.

If you are struggling with opioid addiction or your loved one is, we encourage you to reach out to Resurgence.

The opioid epidemic has led to much despair for many people, but it does not have to be that way.

We offer comprehensive opioid rehab programs in different settings that will work for your needs.

Call our team today and learn how you can escape from opioid addiction successfully and thrive in recovery.

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Alexa Iocco

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