opioid crisis past and future

The Opioid Epidemic

You don’t need to work in the health industry to have heard about the opioid epidemic/aka opioid crisis.

The opioid epidemic refers to the increasing number of deaths and hospitalization from opioids, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Over the last couple of years, deaths caused by opioids increased to 40,000 a year across the U.S. The opioid epidemic started a decade ago. Still, the factors leading to it developed before 2010.

What defines opioids?

Opioids are drugs derived from or are a synthetic form of opium. Morphine contains the highest amount of opium, which has been used for decades for alleviating pain. As medicine evolved, scientists developed methods for replicating the morphine’s effects, making it stronger or weaker.

Methadone, heroin makes the most common drugs, and opioids are today synonymous with pain relief. Demerol, codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone, or tramadol are widely available and easy to procure, which only aggravates the opioid epidemic.

What is the prescription opioid epidemic?

Many of the people who develop an addiction to opioids have started using after a prescription. Opioids are powerful pain relievers, but they’re also highly addictive, making the human brain crave more. It only takes a couple of medicines for the patient to realize that he/she has become addicted to the effects of opioids. By the time they become aware of the opioid addiction, they’re way too far into the addiction.

Do people get treatment for opioid addiction?

Patients will have to follow addiction treatment, and the conventional methods used for detox cause painful withdrawal symptoms, rending the treatment very difficult to complete. Withdrawal symptoms with medication are so severe that people avoid treatment. Some people look into alternative treatment for opioid addiction, where natural remedies are used with even better and gentle effects on the body. For example, ibogaine used for detox from opioids is very gentle on the body and brain, and gives longer-lasting results. Patients no longer feel the need to use opioids and this effect can last for years.

Even if the patients manage to complete the addiction treatment, the main reason for which they were using opioids (as pain relievers) isn’t solved. Some go back to opioids as they still have to struggle with the pain, and heroin makes a cheaper option than prescribed medication. Heroin is more powerful, more affordable, and more accessible to obtain than prescribed medication.

As the conventional addiction treatment focuses only on the addiction to the opioids and on the complete picture (without solving the pain that caused the use of opioids), it makes sense why the results are poor. Over the last couple of years, patients have become more active in their treatment. Once they become aware of the addiction, they’re interested in taking the alternative path, trying to solve both the addiction and the pain that caused the opioid use. Alternative treatments for opioid addiction are now available, tackling the various problems that lead to opioid use and abuse.

Does the opioid epidemic affect all of us?

Regardless of what you may think, the opioid epidemic affects people of all walks of life, in all demographics, including veterans, teens, seniors, men, and women alike. Even if you’re not using/abusing opioids, someone close to you could struggle with opioid addiction. Even if it all started with some prescribed medication, there aren’t many steps to take from use to abuse, mainly when you have prescribed medication.

How can you help?

Just because you’re not using opioids doesn’t mean that the opioid epidemic doesn’t affect you. When you know the risks, the signs, and the symptoms of opioid addiction, you can participate in one’s recovery and even help his/her life.

The stigma of addiction is still very powerful, and people are ashamed to talk about using and abusing opioids. And no, addiction has nothing to do with being weak nor reflects a character flaw. Addiction knows no social or financial status, and anyone may develop it at some point in his life.

Should you have any concerns that someone you care for struggles with opioid addiction, don’t hesitate to look for a treatment provider as soon as possible. Addiction shouldn’t be the final destination for someone’s life, but only a momentary detour.