Opioid Abuse in the United States

opioid abuse
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Opioid addiction is becoming a major crisis in the United States. The public needs to educate themselves about the dangers of these drugs. It is estimated that 116 people die every day from a lethal overdose in the U.S. Here is a little information you should know about opioid abuse.

What is an opioid?

This class of drugs comes from the opium poppy plant. Doctors prescribe them for pain management. Opioids have chemicals that can dull the pain receptors in the brain. Prescription drugs are used to treat moderate to severe pain. Many people who take these drugs will feel a sense of well-being. This is known as the drug high and the cause many issues. When the high stops, some users will take another dose to feel that same sensation again. This can lead to addiction and overdose deaths.

The dangers of opioid addiction have been seen throughout the country. While they can help with pain management, they should not be used as a long-term solution. Some studies have shown that prolonged use can even make pain symptoms worse for patients. The neurotransmitters in the brain respond to the drug and lead to a tolerance of opioids. Once that happens, the user will need a bigger dose to feel the effects of the drug. This circle of abuse leads to many drug overdoses. Healthcare industry officials and doctors have started to limit the number of opioid prescriptions. Pain management is treated with alternative methods that do not include any opioids.

What are the side effects of opioids?

Withdrawal symptoms can be severe with opioid abuse. It can be an emotional and physical challenge for anyone to break the cycle of abuse. Physical signs can include nausea, flush skin, and labored breathing. The user’s behavior will change as well. Some people who struggle with opioid addiction will isolate themselves from others. They may also lack interest in activities that they once enjoyed. Anxiety and poor judgment are other psychological signs of opioid drug abuse. Prolonged use can put a strain on the user’s body. Heart attacks and kidney failure can be attributed to opioid use. Those who use these drugs increase their chances of an overdose with long-term use.

What is the cycle of opioid abuse?

The reward center of the brain is affected by opioid use. The drug can give users a happy or pleasurable feeling. The brain sees this as a reward and starts to crave more of those feelings. Opioids cause the brain to increase production of dopamine. There are many factors whether a person will become addicted to opioids. Most people who are prescribed the drugs will not become addicted. Those who are addicted usually use them to self-medicate or take higher does than they were prescribed.

When someone is addicted and stops their opioid use, they will experience the signs of withdrawal. This stage of the treatment process can include intense physical pain and a craving for the drugs. This is a dangerous time for an addict. They may be tempted to take a higher dose of the drug to calm down the craving. The opioids can overstimulate the brain and increase the need for more pleasurable feelings. This process creates a cycle of drug abuse that relies on withdrawal and reward. With prolonged use, the cravings get stronger and start to increase the drug abuse. Users will use a higher dose that pushes them to the point of a fatal overdose. Some people even seek out more potent drugs like fentanyl. There are many reasons why people abuse drugs. Some users have untreated mental and physical illnesses that cause them to abuse the drugs.

How did opioids become a problem?

Opioid drugs have been over-prescribed in the United States since the 1990s. OxyContin was once seen as a miracle drug that could relieve chronic pain. It was able to deliver pain relief for over 12 hours. The drug also had a dark side. OxyContin pills could be crushed and snorted like heroin. It was seen as a cleaner alternative to injecting a street drug. The drug’s manufacturer had to redesign the pill in 2010 to make it harder to crush.

If you know anyone struggling with opioid abuse, there are opioid addiction rehab centers that can help you. Opioid addiction is a problem that we all must fight together.