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Opioids Crisis: What Is It?

After a major operation, the use of opioids has become more widespread. The problem is, there is an abuse in the use of these drugs. They are dangerous to people’s health, with issues like addiction and death.

What’s An Opioid?

Opioids are a peptide that can exert the same effects as morphine, and are derived from opium. There is a variety of opioids, they can be drugs (heroin) or medication (painkillers).

Opioids and their diversity :

Codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin, Hycodan), morphine (MS Contin, Kadian), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl (Duragesic). The misuse or overuse of addictive opioids can have major consequences.

Opioid Crisis :

In the U.S., for the last decade, an opioid crisis has been witnessed - leading to major social, medical and economic consequences.

The epidemic opioid crisis actually began in the late 1990s. Around 100 million people, or a third of the U.S. population, were estimated to be affected by chronic pain. That’s how opioid painkillers became the most prescribed class of medications in the U.S. The pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that "patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers.”

...Except when patients misuse them. And guess what? That’s what happened! In fact 20 to 30 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain will misuse them. Opioids initiated for post surgery or pain management are one of the leading causes of opioid misuse, where approximately 6% of people continued opioid use after trauma or surgery. And about 80% of people who use heroin began by first misusing prescription opioids.

The potency and availability of these substances, despite their high risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as medical treatments and as recreational drugs.

They are used recreationally because opioids can alter states of consciousness for pleasure. They can modify the perceptions, feelings, and emotions, and provide euphoria, drowsiness, and relaxation. And the misuse or overuse of addictive opioids can have major consequences.

Consequences :

The effects depend on the absorbed dose and the frequency of consumption. But taking opioids can lead to addiction. It literally pushes the consumer to increase the doses and their frequency to compensate for the perceived lack. An overdose of heroin or other opiates can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression and even death.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. It’s crazy to think that there are more drug overdose deaths in America every year than deaths due to guns and car accidents combined! In 2016 there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths.

And this is how we face a public health disaster: with overprescription, selling those products as if they are inoffensive or like there are no alternatives (ibuprofen, physical therapy, activity etc).

If you are suffering from addiction, or think you might, don’t be ashamed, and talk about it to a professional. If you are using opiates and you want to look for an alternative, be comfortable asking for further information on your medication or a possible alternative to your condition.

To go further :

Economical impact of this crisis

Sources :

Vowles KE, McEntee ML, Julnes PS, Frohe T, Ney JP, van der Goes DN. Rates of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in chronic pain: a systematic review and data synthesis. Pain. 2015;156(4):569-576

Muhuri PK, Gfroerer JC, Davies MC. Associations of Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use and Initiation of Heroin Use in the United States. CBHSQ Data Rev. August 2013.

Mohamadi A, Chan JJ, Lian J, Wright CL, Marin AM, Rodriguez EK, von Keudell A, Nazarian A (August 2018). "Risk Factors and Pooled Rate of Prolonged Opioid Use Following Trauma or Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-(Regression) Analysis". The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume. 100 (15): 1332–1340.

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