The Struggles Of Opioid Addiction

Avery Follansbee, Author

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Every single day, more than 130 people in the United States overdose on opioids. This problem had all started in the 1990’s, where companies told the medical communities that opioids are not addictive. Doctors started prescribing their patients opioids at a much greater rate.

21-29% of patients that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and 80% of opioid users turn to heroin. So why do doctors continue to prescribe these harmful drugs that take the lives of 64,000 people every year?

It is said that doctors could be receiving perks from the brands that make opioid painkillers, which makes doctors more opt to sell them to patients. According to drugabuse.gov, out of the 369,000 doctors that had prescribed opioids to patients in 2015, 7% of them accepted payments from these brands.

One issue seems to be how doctors will carelessly give out opioids, without any perks. After somebody gets their wisdom teeth out, they are usually prescribed with vicodin, which is an opioid. In which the directions are to take one every 4 hours, which can be dangerous.

The opioid that has caused the most deaths is called fentanyl. In 2016, 42,000 people died from opioids and 19,000 of those deaths were from fentanyl (drugabuse.gov). Even the smallest amount of fentanyl can kill you, and it’s hard to detect whether or not it’s in cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.

There is a difference between an opioid and an opiate. The difference is that “An opiate is a drug naturally derived from from the flowering opium poppy plant. Examples of opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine. On the other hand, the term opioid is a broader term that includes opiates and refers to any substance, natural or synthetic, that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors…some examples of synthetic opioids include the prescription painkillers vicodin and oxycodone.”  (CenteronAddiction.org)

Speaking to former addicts helps shed light on the topic. “I was prescribed opioids for chronic pain.” A former addict started. “At first, they had started me on 120 pills a month of oxycodone, which were 30 milligrams. Then as my pain continued to get worse, my specialist sent me to “pain clinics”. They then started to prescribe me 380 pills a month. 120 oxycodone pills, 80 oxycontin pills, 60 opana pills, and 120 methadone pills. I would use all of the oxycodone pills within 4-5 days. My brother was an addict and died of heroin, and I always thought when he was alive that he was an awful person. I then realized after seeing myself be dependent on opioids, that I now understood what he had been going through and I feel bad that I ever treated him that way.”

The last question I asked was how it feels to be completely clean, and how do you feel now compared to how you used to feel? He said “As cliche as it sounds, it feels like I woke up from a bad dream, and I feel very fortunate because other people never do.”

The road to recovery can be considered one of the most difficult things for somebody struggling with addiction. One method is rehab, but rehab only has a 30% success rate. Another method is counseling, which can include group meetings, or individual meetings.

In response to the opioid crisis, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services has 5 major priorities to stop the production and prescribing of opioids. The 5 things are: improving access to treatment and recovery services, promoting use of overdose reversing drugs, strengthening understanding of the opioid crisis, providing support for research on pain and addiction, and advancing better practices for pain management. (cdc.gov)

Something that is crucial for somebody who is addicted to opioids or knows somebody that is, is NARCAN. It is a nasal spray and can save somebody’s life if they have a suspected overdose. It is easy to use and you do not need medical training.  

Nobody can understand the pain of addiction until they go through it themselves. Whether it be a friend, a family member, or yourself.

Drug abuse hotline: 1-877-368-9164