Opiate addiction is an epidemic right now, one that has divided communities and shattered stereotypes, one that is causing real threats to people and families. Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 586,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
Prescription Opioid Abuse
Opiates refer to the class of drugs that are derived from the poppy plant, and they encompass a host of different drugs, both legal and illegal. Legal medications from this family, usually referred to as synthetic or semi-synthetic opioids, are prescription painkillers, designed to block receptors in the brain that process pain. These medications are commonly prescribed after a person has had surgery, has suffered a painful injury, or is dealing with chronic pain or a terminal illness. The meds are effective and fast-working so the benefits are immense, but prescription painkillers are also addicting, and this has contributed to the spike in the opiate addiction we see today.
Illegal use of opioids occurs when someone takes their prescription painkillers in ways other than directed. People often start out taking their prescription opiates for a real need, but eventually they overuse and abuse the pills because they like the way they make them feel. They begin to take more pills than prescribed, they crush and snort or inject the drugs for a faster, better high, and they forge prescriptions and doctor shop in order to get more pills.
Prescription Painkiller Abuse Leads to Heroin Addiction
The opiate addiction epidemic that is so common today began in the past few decades, as prescription painkillers became more prescribed and more widely recognized as effective for relieving pain. For some time, prescriptions were written for narcotics with little thought of the consequences of making these medications more widely available. Now we have millions of these prescriptions being filled in America each year, making it easier to obtain the drugs for abuse as well. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills (Centers for Disease Control).
Naturally, because prescription painkillers are addicting, people began abusing them. When they found out other opiates, like heroin, were cheaper, easier to get, and provided an even better high, people began to switch. Drug addicts today are going back to one of the most deadly illicit drugs there are, all because they got hooked on prescriptions that are similar to heroin. Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers (Centers for Disease Control).
Opiates are dangerous because they can lead to a life of addiction, but they are also easy to overdose on. More people die today from drug overdose than motor vehicle deaths and firearm deaths, as the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 2014, there were 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin (Centers for Disease Control).
Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Addiction to drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers causes a person to lose control of their life, resort to drug-seeking behavior, and suffer physically, emotionally, financially, and legally. This all-encompassing disease is common among people from all walks of life, including teens and young adults, businessmen and women, soccer moms, healthcare workers, and even the elderly. The first step toward putting an end to this type of addiction is to create awareness for it. The more people know about that everyone is at risk and also the symptoms and the treatment for opiate addiction, the more people will get that help.
Treatment for opiate addiction starts with detox, which can happen in a medical facility, or under treatment staff supervision. Once the person has cleansed their body of opiates, they must take part in behavioral therapy and rehab. It is during this treatment phase of recovery that the person will come to truly understand their addiction and develop the skills to work through the difficulties in their life without turning to drugs.
Recovery takes time, hard work, and the help of a trusted treatment team. If you or a loved one is looking for a good opiate rehab program, we can help. Contact Sober Helpline at 800-819-2940 today to get started.