America’s Opioid Crisis Explained

Opioid may be effective in managing pain but over 42,000 people in the country died due to opioid addiction and overdose as of 2016.

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Considered as a prescription narcotic pain drug in the U.S., opioids are launched by pharmaceutical companies with the aim that it will work by binding the spinal cord, brain, and other body receptors and eventually directing the brain to inform the body that it is not experiencing any form of pain. Although these are effective in relieving pain, opioids are regulated across the country due to its possible addictive effects when not taken accordingly. Among the different types of opioid medications are the synthetic opioids, codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone as well as hydrocodone. Designed to help patients who are suffering from moderate to severe pain, meperidine, morphine, methadone and oxycodone are also prescribed by medical professionals.

As a severe pain management measure, your physician can recommend that you take doses of opioids around the clock. However, its frequency will be decreased as the pain that you are experiencing subsides. While in prescription opioids, patients are recommended to keep in touch with their physician and to let them be aware of any side effects as well as their pain response to the drug.

Due to its effectiveness in relieving severe pain, many patients depend on opioid medication too much that they are eventually found to have opioid tolerance and opioid withdrawal symptoms. The opioid epidemic is one of the widespread problems that the national government and medical associations face today. Opioid overdose and opioid addiction cases are continuously growing that medical professionals now consider the opioid crisis among the top issues that are to be addressed in the country. To better understand this issue, below are some of the important facts that we should know about the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

What Are Opioids?

Before we uncover the truth behind the opioid crisis, it is good to have a closer look on the other essential facts about opioids. Opioid research show that although it is effective in managing pain, over 42,000 people in the country died due to opioid addiction and opioid overdose in 2016. This is why prescription opioids are not easily recommended by doctors as these could cause life threatening side effects when used more than what is advised by professionals. Drowsiness, constipation, vomiting and nausea are the common side effects of the medication. To avoid any harmful effects, prescription opioids are not advised to be used along with sleeping drugs, antibiotics and antidepressants.

Opioid Addiction and Opioid Tolerance

As it is one of the most effective pain management drugs, there is a big chance that patients compulsively use these to experience the same impact on their pain over and over again. When this occurs, the patient is having opioid tolerance and has a great chance of being addicted to it.

A chronic disease that can lead to patients facing serious economic, social and health challenges, opioid addiction happens when prescription opioids have been misused. The growing number of Americans who have this addiction is alarming the health care industry as well as the local and national governments as it leads to life-threatening conditions such as patients’ slow breathing and unconsciousness.

Opioid Withdrawal and Treatment

Appropriate treatment of opioid addiction is important to help those who are eager to save themselves from this crisis. Being closely watched by a physician or any medical professional is also essential to ensure the safety of patients as the opioid withdrawal syndrome can lead to death if not properly managed. Dysphoria, papillary dilation, insomnia and yawning are the common symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Other serious and life-threatening symptoms are fever, rhinorrhea, piloerection, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

U.S. Response to the Opioid Crisis

Clinical research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that over 115 deaths daily are caused by opioid overdose in the country. Around $78.5 billion is also spent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year to address problems related to opioid addiction such as addiction treatment, lost productivity and others.

How did the crisis start? The opioid crisis began in the 1980s when drug manufacturers assured medical institutions that addiction to this treatment will not happen. With this claim, health care professionals in the U.S. started to rampantly prescribe these treatments to patients. After several years, opioid research indicates a great chance of being addicted to this drug. Fast pace 2015, at least 33,000 deaths were reported to be due to opioid overdose.

To address the opioid crisis in the country, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have launched a program with the five priorities:

  1. Boosting patients’ access to institutions and facilities offering opioid addiction recovery and treatment services
  2. Increasing people’s awareness about the medications that could reverse opioid overdose and withdrawal effects
  3. Conducting public health surveillance to strengthen the citizens’ understanding of the crisis
  4. Supporting innovative and informative research about opioid addiction
  5. Launching best pain management practices

In addition to these, the government agencies have also arranged research and meet-ups with drug manufacturers as well as other institutions to discuss effective ways and strategies to help medical professionals provide better options to manage patients’ chronic pain. Regular discussions with pharmaceutical companies are being done to come up with advanced technologies that will effectively treat disorders commonly associated with opioid addiction and misuse. Above all, the agencies are also focused on launching recovery programs for patients.

Prescribed opioid medications have shown their contributions to the health care industry as these are the strong and effective drugs commonly provided to people who are in a great deal of pain. However, just as in the case of other prescription drugs and antibiotics, there is a big chance that patients who have been prescribed with these medications get so dependent on them that they develop opioid tolerance and eventually result to abuse and addiction. With the current opioid crisis that is being experienced in the U.S., medical professionals should regularly assess the conditions of their patients when taking prescription opioids to save them from the life-threatening conditions, such as deaths, unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, that they will experience when they become so hooked with using these addictive pain management treatments.

More about the opioid crisis.

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