The Opioid Crisis In Brief

Foreword from InsaneEnergy:ย Doing something a bit different today, folks. This article comes from a member of Ghost’s chatroom who really wanted to write this article, exploring something I haven’t really talked about before. Hope you like it, and make sure to leave some feedback!

What Are Opioids?:

For those of you not familiar with opioid narcotics, count yourself lucky: you’ve probably never had serious surgery in your life. For the rest, those powerful painkillers go by a number of names: morphine, fentanyl, oxycontin/oxycodone, amongst many others, though you probably didn’t ask about that in the post-op haze. The medications work by acting upon the central nervous system- the brain and the spinal cord- ย occupying the opioid receptors in the nerve cells and preventing transmission of pain impulses. While this has the effect of reducing suffering, it also brings about the reason the medications are so lethal: respiratory and cardiac sedation; overdose, and your body loses the drive to breathe and your heart rate drops below a sustainable rate, depriving both it and the rest of the body’s organs oxygen and leading to death by asphyxiation.

The Scale of the Issue:

Roughly 64,000 people die from opioid overdoses per year- more than either gun violence or car accidents. The rate of death is also higher than that of H.I.V. at the height of its own epidemic. For their part, synthetic opioid-related deaths have risen by 540 percent in a period of only three years. President Trump himself has declared an emergency regarding the situation, and the problem itself has spread to all fifty states.

What’s The Real Problem Here?:

In one word: overuse. Make no mistake, opioid narcotics are a useful tool of medicine- particularly in those suffering from truly severe pain and those dying of terminal illnesses- but we are witnessing massive over-prescription by doctors and pharmacists fearful of lawsuits, greater social acceptance of “pill popping” and regular medication usage in mainstream culture, and increased marketing by pharmaceutical companies. While each of these is a story of its own, the bottom line is that we’re seeing too much of it in circulation. Many of these new-found addicts will eventually be cut off from their supply ย by their healthcare provider, leading them to seek out back-alley sources or turn to more infamous methods like heroin use to continue to feed their addiction.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself:

  • Minimize usage of pain narcotics when declared safe to do so: consult with your doctor/nurse/pharmacist/whoever is coordinating your medications on when they feel it’s safe for you to switch over
  • Consider non-opioid pain medications: Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) such as aspirin serve as a bridge between opioid use and freedom from pain, with the added benefit of being non-addictive; but they carry their own risks (Tylenol is toxic to the liver in high doses, aspirin thins the blood), so consult with your healthcare provider on proper use and dosage
  • Consider Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM): Yoga, meditation, music; they might sound clichรฉ, but many patients report great relief from them, and they’ve entered modern medical training as considerations. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though, so you’ll have to explore for yourself and with your provider what works and what doesn’t.
  • If you feel you are addicted, seek help immediately: addiction strikes fast with regular use, with the chances increasing rapidly after even a few days of usage. The faster you recognize changes in your own behavior, the better your chances for recovery are.

What You Can Do To Protect Others:

  • Proper drug disposal: if you’ve got leftover narcotics from a previous surgery recovery, DON’T flush them; they’ll just end up in the water supply. Take them to a proper disposal center.
  • Keep a lookout on friends and family: opioid withdrawal signs include negative mood, anxious behavior, depression, irritability, rapid breathing and heart rate, stomach/intestinal problems (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea), and confusion. Be on the lookout for: drug-seeking behaviors, evidence of narcotics in the house, and anger/denial when confronting the suspected addict.

Disclaimer: this is an unofficial guide meant to give general information and has no direct backing by any government, organization, or licensed medical entity. Any and all questions should be taken to licensed medical personnel.

Stay safe out there, folks.

-Trenchmanius

References:

Opioid Abuse & Addiction Withdrawals, Signs, Symptoms & Effects | Acadiana Addiction Center. (2017, October 17). Retrieved from https://www.acadianaaddiction.com/addiction/opioids/symptoms-signs-effects

Reinberg, S. (2017, March 17). Opioid dependence can start within just a few days. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioid-painkiller-addiction-dependence-can-start-in-days/

Salam, M. (2017, October 27). The Opioid Epidemic: A Crisis Years in the Making. Retrieved March 23, ย ย ย  2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/us/opioid-crisis-public-health- emergency.html

 

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