Nearly 20 percent of the population in the United States is said to have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 52 million people, aged 12 years and older have used prescription drugs beyond medical purposes.
Prescription drugs are often exchanged, shared, and sold among peers. This has become the prime reason for the surge in prescription drug abuse. According to studies, there are different kinds of prescription drugs that are abused by people. Among them, opioids are the most misused prescription drugs. Opioids are pain relievers or painkillers prescribed to people with severe or chronic pain. However, these drugs are frequently used for non-medical purposes, especially by women or the elderly, to get immediate relief or experience euphoria, which is one of the effects of these drugs, and to keep the pain at bay.
In order to spread more awareness about the rise and causes of prescription drug abuse, National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) observes the month of October as the “Talk About Your Medicines Month” to promote safe and appropriate medication. To mark this event, we are bringing out a series of articles on different kinds of prescription drugs that can be addictive in nature. The first article of the series talks about opioids, the most abused prescription drug in the U.S.
Opioid addiction in the U.S.
According to the reports, nearly 50 percent of deaths that occur due to a drug overdose, which is estimated to be around 22,000 per year, are caused by prescription drugs. As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), while opioid addiction affects nearly five million people in the U.S., it leads to approximately 17,000 deaths annually. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the rates of opioid overdose deaths jumped significantly, from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2013 to 9 per 100,000 in 2014, reflecting an increase of 14 percent.
Effects of opioid on the body
Opioids are pain relievers which can be addictive. They tend to attach themselves to specific proteins inside the body called opioid receptors. These are found in the brain, the spinal cord, the gastrointestinal tract, and other organs of the body. This process reduces the perception of pain, thereby giving some relief to the patient.
However, overuse of opioids also gives rise to drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation and distress breathing, depending upon the use and type of medication consumed. Besides, opioids also tend to influence the region of the brain involved in feelings of reward, thereby creating a euphoric effect for those under the influence of the drug. Hence, while some abuse opioids to attain a permanent state of relief from chronic pain, others abuse it to experience euphoria.
Difference between opioid dependence and addiction
Often, people tend to confuse between dependence on opioids and addiction to opioids. Dependence becomes evident when someone exhibits withdrawal symptoms that occur when the person refrains from the medication abruptly. Such symptoms can be mild or severe depending upon the drug. These symptoms are, however, manageable with other medicines or if they are tapered off slowly.
In contrast, dependence is often accompanied with tolerance, which basically implies that the individual needs to increase the dosage to get relief. Tolerance occurs when the body gets used to the prescribed dosage and no longer provides any relief. Therefore, people tend to increase the dose, on their own. This becomes a tricky situation for the physician as they are unable to evaluate whether the patient is getting addicted to the medicine or needs a higher dosage to alleviate the pain.
Road to recovery
Many people indulge in prescription drug abuse due to a long-term or frequent use of their own medicines. However, opioid addiction is as dangerous as an addiction to illicit drugs. In fact, several studies suggest that prescription drug abuse is more dangerous.
If you or your loved one is addicted to opioid or any other prescription drug and is looking for treatment, you may contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for information on various prescription drug rehabs in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online for further information on prescription drug addiction treatment in California. Our representatives will guide you through the best rehab centers in California.