No one is immune from becoming part of the opioid epidemic. There is not an age, social, or economic group that is untouched by this national health crisis America is experiencing. It is important to know the signs and to understand how this disease affects so many families. Sadly, some people who take prescription medications are not even informed that they are taking opioids, which are addictive painkillers. This is not a strictly street-drug crisis.
How Opioids Work
Opioids bind to areas of the brain that control pain and our emotions. They increase the levels of our feel-good dopamine hormone and produce intense feelings of euphoria. As the brain acclimates to these sensations, it requires more and more of a drug to produce the same level of pain relief. This is how people become dependent upon and then addicted to opioids. It can happen quickly and silently.
According to CNN, experts say over two million Americans have become dependent upon or abused prescription pain pills or street drugs. Legal opioids include morphine, oxycodone (Percocet), and hydrocodone (Vicodin) that are prescribed by doctors to control acute or chronic pain. Opioids also include illegal drugs such as heroin and the illicitly-made and highly dangerous fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl can be more than 100 times stronger than morphine. Methadone is another synthetic opioid, commonly given to recovering heroin addicts to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
People who have become dependent on their prescribed painkillers sometimes move on to heroin because it costs less. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, half of the younger generation who inject heroin moved on to the street drug after abusing prescription painkillers, and 3 out of 4 new heroin users started out taking prescribed opioids.
- Over 2 million Americans are dependent upon, or abuse, pain pills
- In 2016, there were 63,600 overdose deaths in the United States, or 115 opioid deaths each day
- Prescribed opioids increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992, to a peak of 282 million in 2012.
Signs of Opioid Abuse
It is not always easy to discern when people are abusing opioids. But if their behavior has changed and they develop strange habits, it should be taken seriously. Here are some signs to be aware of:
- Taking larger amounts of a substance than intended
- Not able to control substance use
- Spend excessive time obtaining or recovering from substance
- Strong cravings for the substance
- Consistently not fulfilling obligations at work, home or school
- Social withdrawal
- Using substance in physically hazardous scenarios
- Need for increased amounts of a substance
- Physical withdrawal symptoms present
We have resources that can help you or a family member who is battling opioid addiction. The first step is admitting there is a problem. The next step is seeking help. Contact us if you need assistance. If you or someone you know are experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.
As part of Miami’s inner-city community, we are committed to the people we serve. We want to level the playing field medically for the kids of our community by giving them a chance to feel good mentally and physically. Bring your children to our walk-in clinic at Family Medical Clinic Kendall for primary care appointments. We consider every patient a member of our extended family and enjoy serving generations of families at our practice. Our commitment to you begins the moment you step into our office. Located at 9000 SW 137th Avenue, Suite 111, in Miami, we offer a walk-in clinic, urgent care and a lab & diagnostics. Call us today (305) 603-7824.