Opioid Addiction Affects Millions
America is facing an Opioid epidemic. Over the course of the last 20 years, Opioid use has been on the rise. Opioids, drugs that mirror the effects of opium, are now responsible for more accidental deaths in the United States than any other cause. The statistics for Opioid use and Opioid-related overdoses are alarming. Every day, opioid addiction affects millions of Americans and their families. 115 Americans die each day due to Opioid-related causes, and an estimated 7,000 people are treated each day for Opioid-related complications.
11 million American men and women use Opioids that were medically prescribed, and 1 million abused Heroin. 23% of people who try Heroin develop a life-altering addiction. Synthetic opioid-related deaths increased by 57% between 2010 and 2015.
There are legal and illegal Opioids, and even legal Opioids are commonly used illegally. Examples of Opioids include:
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How Easy Are Opioids to Obtain?
Unfortunately, in most areas of the United States, people who abuse legal and/or illegal Opioids can easily obtain them. Prescription Opioids are generally administered in medical environments for patients to reduce painful sensations of illnesses or injuries in the body.
Patients who are no longer able to legally obtain the drugs when prescriptions run out often turn to illegal drugs, which are normally easier to find. Illegal opioids are widely available on the streets of many cities from drug dealers, gang members, and addicts, proving to be a cheaper, but powerful alternative to prescription opioids. In fact, many of Heroin’s victims are people who once used prescription medications, but transition because they develop a tolerance to their medication or are no longer able to obtain it.
Groups Who Opioid Addiction Affects
Opioids are highly addicting and available for a variety of users and age ranges. Opioid addiction is not unique to any specific group. Children, women, professionals, and middle to upper-class families can all get trapped in the grips of Opioid addiction, among many others.
Veterans, for example, are prescribed Opioids to soothe post-combat injuries. Members of the LGBTQ community may turn to Opioids to relieve minority stress, psychological distress experienced by members of a group who are stigmatized or discriminated against by society. College students may find abusing Opioids sedates anxiety or may find themselves pressured into Opioid use at parties. Opioid use in elderly populations is not uncommon, as many can easily access pain medications due to medical disorders and pain caused by the natural aging process.
Women and Opioid Abuse
Women are more likely than men to have chronic pain, experience panic attacks, experience depression and anxiety, and need prescription drugs from doctors. Between 1999 and 2010, 48, 000 women overdosed on prescription opioids. Heroin use in female populations has recently tripled, increasing from 0.4 to 1.2 per 100,000 people.
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Children and Opioid Abuse
Young children and adolescents are not immune to Opioid addiction and dependency. Children have a higher risk of Opioid addiction if their parents were addicted. Expectant mothers who are addicted to Opioids can pass the addiction to their unborn babies, as the chemicals pass through their blood stream into the unborn child’s. As a result, babies are born with symptoms of Opioid withdrawal, low body weight, and a number of birth defects, collectively known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Children can access and use prescription drugs they find in their parents’ cabinets without their parents’ consent. In 2015, 276,000 people aged 12 to 17 used opioids, with 122,000 suffering addiction. Adolescents are being prescribed Opioids in higher numbers, doubling from the 90s. In 2017 alone, 772 young people aged 15 to 19 overdosed, most from heroin.
The impact of parental Opioid abuse can impact children who do not use drugs, as they lose out on important parent-bonding time necessary for child development. Children in homes of parents on drugs may not be able to form functional emotional connections needed for the child to feel connected and nurtured by their parent. Some parents who are addicted to Opioids may unintentionally neglect their children, resulting in childcare services removing children from their parents. Nearly a third of children entering foster care in 2015 did so at least in part to parental drug abuse – an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2005. Children in households where parents struggle with substance abuse are more likely to experience long-term effects of neglect or abuse than other children.
Why Is Opioid Addiction Affecting So Many People?
Most Opioid addicts first begin using the drugs as a result of a prescription. Medical professionals prescribe medications such as Vicodin and Morphine to patients before or after surgeries. These pills are effective painkillers, but can have highly addicting effects when abused.
Opioids are popular for the rewarding effects they produce in the brain and body. Chemicals in the brain, such as Dopamine, are released during Opioid use, creating a surge of pleasurable and intense sensations. Opioid use releases anywhere from 5 to 10 times the amount of dopamine released from natural activities like drinking water, exercising, and eating a good meal.
Exposure to different Opioids can further increase addiction. Opioids like Fentanyl can be mixed with stimulants like Cocaine without the users’ knowledge, creating an intense release of feel good chemicals with fatal outcomes. Users who are seeking to fill a void can find themselves experimenting with stronger Opioids. Morphine, for example, may not hold its power after months or years of use, and can be replaced with Fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger and incredibly easy to overdose.
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