To say that the U.S. has a significant problem on its hands as it relates to the misuse and abuse of opioids would be a considerable and remarkably profound understatement. And this, by the way, is not rooted in conjecture but rather a grim reality substantiated by many studies.
One of those studies, by the way, comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study revealed that some 10 million Americans admitted to either misusing or outright abusing opioids in 2019. Of those 10 million, over 9.5 million reportedly had a problem with prescription-based opioids. The remainder had a problem with street-level opioids, namely heroin. According to a separate study published by the National Institutes of Health, some 50,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2019.
The Truth About Opioids
Something to note regarding opioids is that it is a drug that comes in many forms, including pill, tablet, patch, and, in the case of heroin, injectable formulations. Although how they can make their way into the body can vary, a few things are the same across the board. Firstly, all opioids come from the poppy latex, a fluid found inside the pods of opium poppy plants. Second, they are Schedule II narcotics that work by attaching to proteins known as opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, intestines, and several other parts of the human body.
While all of this is happening, the brain produces more endorphins than the body would under normal circumstances. This increase in endorphin production in the brain does an extraordinary job of blunting pain. Because of this, opioids have become the go-to drug for combating pain following surgery or pain associated with cancer and other chronic health problems. But there is a dark side to this powerful Schedule II narcotic drug. The same things that make opioids so good at blunting pain are the same things that allow the drug to produce euphoric and tranquil effects, both of which make this class of drugs highly addictive.
What Are Considered Opioid Drugs?
Essentially, any drug made from the poppy latex found in opium poppy plants is considered an opioid. Of course, some opioids are more popular than others. The ones that are misused and abused the most in the U.S. include the following:
How Opioid Addiction Starts
Except for heroin, many Americans who currently have a problem with opioids initially started taking them for legitimate reasons. And it was the above-mentioned opioid drugs that many of them ended up making their drug of choice. To help further put this into perspective, it helps to take a peek at another study published by the National Institutes of Health. The study revealed that 21 and 29% of individuals prescribed opioids for chronic pain eventually began to misuse them. Further, 12% of those individuals using opioids to manage pain developed an opioid use disorder or opioid addiction, and between 4 to 6% of those same individuals eventually transition to heroin, the study found.
Opioid Side Effects
Even when taking opioids as directed, there is a risk of being met with numerous unpleasant side effects. But that risk goes up considerably when individuals misuse and abuse this class of drugs. As noted by the National Institutes of Health, some of the more common side effects include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased tolerance
Along with these side effects, it is not uncommon for many people to experience respiratory depression ahead of an opioid overdose, which could be fatal.
In summary, abusing opioids of any variety can have devastating consequences both on individuals themselves and the communities where they live. If you or someone you know has a problem with any of the opioids detailed in this article and would like help turning your life around, consider speaking with one of our caring associates today at 772-266-5320.