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6 Common Questions About Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction has gained a lot of attention in recent years. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 11 million U.S. citizen misused prescription opioids. In addition, almost 1 million people used heroin and another 2.1 million had a full addiction to either prescription or illegal forms of opioids in 2016. That number has increased. Here are a few more startling facts:

  • More than 130 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdose.
  • More than 1000 people a day go to the ER for opioid misuse.
  • The estimated cost of prescription opioid misuse is $78.5 billion a year in just the United States.

In recent years, the use of one powerful prescription painkiller increased by 67 percent. With the same 20-year period, the overdose death rate of that single medication quadrupled. This means that a person seeking treatment for chronic pain could end up with an addiction to pain medication instead. As this crisis becomes widely publicized, it’s only natural to have questions.

What are the most common opioid medications and illegal drugs?

The most commonly prescribed opioids include codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. Heroin is not a medication, but it is commonly abused. Drug dealers often lace heroin with fentanyl (a prescription painkiller,) and the combination is often lethal.

Why are opioids such a big problem?

Opioids are very effective as pain killers because they block pain messages sent from the body to the brain. While providing this relief, the opioids also provide dopamine, a sort of “feel good” hormone. As this chemical reaches the pleasure centers of the brain, the body experiences a rush of pleasure and well-being. The drugs also trigger a sense of reward. This combination is difficult to resist.

How can prescription use lead to addiction?

The pleasant effects of this medication lead many people to take it other more often than instructed. Sometimes people share the drug with friends or family members, often for legitimate medical conditions. Any use of the drug without appropriate medical supervision can lead to dependency. For some prescription drug users, a short three to ten-day period is all it takes for an addiction to develop.

Am I at risk for opioid addiction?

Unfortunately, anyone who uses the drugs, whether with a prescription or not, is at risk for addiction. In fact, more than 10 percent of patients develop a long-term dependence after just eight days of prescription opioid use. If you have used or are using opioids, use publications from your health care provider or an opioid addiction infographic for easy answers to difficult questions.

How can I tell if I’m addicted to opioids?

The symptoms of addiction vary from one person to the next. Some signs include tiredness, irritability, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from family and friends, constipation, dry mouth, rapid mood changes, and changes in sleeping habits.

Where can I get help?

If you think you may be addicted to your prescription medication, contact your health care professional right away. Many outreach programs, health care clinics, and counseling services offer addiction recovery help for individuals with addictions to prescription and non-prescription drugs.