At the moment, the United States is gripped by an opioid epidemic without precedence in the nation's history. Americans and their communities have struggled to keep up with the rapidly increasing rate of overdose deaths due to opioids (which now cause 10 deaths per 100,000 in population, up from 3 in 2000). Given the scope and the lethal degree to which the crisis has grown, it can seem difficult for concerned parents, teachers, family members, community leaders and even those with the substance abuse problem themselves to begin to understand the problem.
Indeed, given how quickly the opioid epidemic evolved into a nationwide crisis, education and outreach on the issue have lagged. Here's what you need to know about what makes opioids so likely to be abused.
Millions of prescriptions increase availability, odds of abuse
Opioids are particularly dangerous because of their wide availability and generally unregarded (until recently) potential for abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 259 million painkiller prescriptions were issued in 2014, which is one bottle per every U.S. adult; this despite what Bloomberg reported has been "20 years of warning from scientists about the dangers of addiction."
"Neuroscientists have found links between opioids and long-term brain changes."
Although heroin factors into the overall opioid crisis and has been known for decades as a highly addictive danger, legally prescribed painkillers represent the greatest threat. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse presentation given to the Senate, "prescription opioids are similar to, and act on the same brain systems affected by, heroin and morphine. They present an intrinsic abuse and addiction liability, particularly if they are used for non-medical purposes."
Indeed, opioids of all kinds are a serious concern, and will continue to be: Bloomberg also noted neuroscientists have found links between opioids and long-term brain changes. This makes it all the more important to know where to turn when in need of help.
Get ahead of the danger
There are many pathways to addiction. Indeed, patients taking painkillers on regular orders from a physician can develop a habit when there are few other risk factors present. If you or a loved one is prescribed painkillers to recovery from surgery or a workplace accident, it's best to proactively meet the opioid challenge head on and talk to a doctor about how to safely take the medication, what to do if a dependence starts to emerge, or if an alternative therapy exists.
Substance abuse is a difficult, highly sensitive issue to address. Individuals at the most risk are often the least likely to reach out for help. However, if ever a concerned or affected person does look for assistance, it helps to know the number of professional agencies:
- Fairwinds Treatment Centers can be contacted at any time at 772-449-0300 for individuals or relatives to discuss options.
- The Center for Substance Abuse has a 24-hour national referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP).
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-237-8255.
If considering treatment for an opioid-related condition, or if concerned about someone who has one, contact Fairwinds Treatment Centers for more information on our locations and services.