Sadly, the U.S. is no stranger to substance use disorders. According to a study published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, the medical school of Johns Hopkins University, substance use disorders affect the lives of more than 20 million Americans aged 12 and over.
Most of these same individuals have what they describe as their go-to drug, making the country’s substance abuse crisis even more varied and complex. One of the drugs that many Americans consider their go-to is prescription-based opioids, a wide range of Schedule II drugs that interact with opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS).
The prescription opioids that are especially popular among individuals who say opioids are their go-to drugs include morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Those who can’t get their hands on these prescription opioids, either because they can’t get a prescription from a licensed physician or perhaps can’t afford them, usually turn to heroin, a street-level opioid.
What Everyone Should Know About the Opioid Crisis in America
The first thing to note when it comes to opioids is they are very addictive, and the reason why that’s the case has a lot to do with how they interact with the brain and body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids do an excellent job when it comes to providing relief from moderate-to-severe pain. Because of that, many physicians will prescribe them to individuals who have undergone surgery or suffered a severe injury. They are also routinely prescribed to individuals diagnosed with cancer and other chronic diseases in which pain is a component. Issues arise when individuals don’t take these powerful drugs as directed by their physician or switch to taking heroin, the street-level variant. As of the writing of this article, an estimated 2.7 million Americans are struggling with an opioid disorder, and the reasons why might surprise you.
What Makes Opioids So Addictive?
In short, opioids can and often do activate powerful reward centers in the brain. This action helps with pain management, but it is also the very thing that makes opioids highly addictive. When someone takes prescription or street-level opioids, those drugs attach to opioid receptors throughout the CNS, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. That attachment prompts the body to release above-average amounts of endorphins, hormones released by the body when individuals are stressed or are in pain. The increase in endorphins, in turn, triggers an uptick in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for the short-lived euphoric high associated with taking opioids. The longer someone takes these drugs to achieve a euphoric high, the more likely it is for addiction to occur. Some common signs that might suggest someone is abusing opioids include the following:
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Joint and muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- An inability to concentrate
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression
- Distorted perception of reality
How To Avoid an Opioid-based Substance Use Disorder
Most people who end up abusing and ultimately becoming addicted to opioids initially took them for legitimate reasons, and they took them as prescribed by their physician. When they stopped taking them as prescribed, they developed an addiction. Bearing that in mind, the best way to avoid an opioid addiction is to either steer clear of these powerful narcotic drugs altogether or to be diligent about taking them as prescribed if you absolutely must be on them. If you must be on opioids, you should also avoid combining them with any of the following drugs since doing so can open the door to the development of an opioid disorder:
- Muscle relaxants
- Other prescription or street-level opioids
When it comes to equally powerful street-level opioids, such as heroin, saying no if someone offers it to you is a surefire way to avoid falling victim to an opioid disorder. All told, opioids are a double-edged sword in that they can quickly relieve severe pain, but at the same time, they are highly addictive drugs that can completely turn someone’s life upside down. That all being said, if you’re struggling with an opioid use disorder and need help regaining control over your life, consider speaking with one of our associates today at 833-610-1174.