The opioid epidemic is a complex issue. In 2016, the CDC reported a 200% increase in opioid-related deaths between 2000 and 2014. Tens of thousands of Americans are dying each year due to an opioid overdose. But why do people get addicted to opioids?
The Human Brain and Opioids
The human brain is an extremely complex organ. It’s responsible for all of the functions that make us human. It has almost 100 billion nerve cells.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s released by the nerve endings in the brain that are responsible for things like pleasure, happiness, and motivation. It helps regulate many different human behaviors, such as movement.
There are various ways in which people take opioids. They can take it by mouth, snort it, or inject it with a needle. When opioids are taken by mouth or snorted, they go into the bloodstream and are eventually absorbed by the brain. When taken by injection, the effects are felt almost instantly and can last for about a day (maybe even longer).
The Effects of Opioids on the Human Brain
Opioids have a wide variety of effects on the brain. They can make a person feel euphoric and high, and they can also cause a person to feel depressed, anxious, or even suicidal. It is this feeling of euphoria that people seek and that is why they get addicted to opioids. Some people will persist in seeking out higher doses of an opioid for more extreme highs, but taking them past a certain level can lead to death.
The Effects on the Brain are Not the Same for Everyone
When a person takes an opioid, the effects on their brain can vary. The effects depend largely on the dosage of the opioid that they’re taking. Heroin and oxycodone are both very strong opioid drugs, but since oxycodone is a prescription drug, you’ll often find it distributed in more moderate amounts than heroin. That doesn’t mean it’s safe, however. Oxycodone is still potentially highly dangerous and should be handled and distributed with the utmost caution.
Opioid Addiction is a Serious Problem
According to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that opioids killed almost 30,000 Americans in 2014. That’s over 60% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States for that year.
Doctors prescribe opioids to help people who have chronic pain (lasting over three months). However, many people who take them for chronic pain turn into addicts. This is a serious problem that must be addressed and people need to know what to do when someone close to them turns into an addict.
How Doctors Prescribe Opioids
There are several ways in which doctors can prescribe opioids to patients who suffer from chronic pain. Typically, they may give a patient a prescription for opioids along with a recommendation to take the drug on a short-term basis for acute pain (if there’s no other option).
Some doctors may decide to prescribe long-term treatment if their patient has severe pain and little or no alternative treatments available for them. In some cases, patients can become dependent upon these drugs, leading to addiction and fatal overdoses.
Opioid Addiction is a Medical Condition
Drugs are not inherently good or bad. Doctors prescribe opioids and other drugs all the time to help people deal with pain and other conditions. However, opioids have some serious risks when they’re misused. If you find yourself in a situation where you need opioids to deal with pain, your medical provider needs to give you extra attention to determine if your dependence on the drugs could be dangerous to your health. You might ask for recommendations on alternatives or find out how you can be screened for addiction.
Opioid addiction is a complex medical condition and not something that should be taken lightly. When doctors prescribe opioids for long-term treatment of chronic pain, it’s important that patients understand exactly what this means and what side effects they can expect from these drugs. Depending on your personal circumstances and medical history, your doctor will monitor you closely to make sure you are getting all of the benefits that these drugs can give you and to ensure you don’t become addicted to them.
Managing patients with opioid addictions can get extremely challenging. When confronted with this challenge, healthcare professionals need to be sure and have the proper protocols for keeping their patients’ records in order and opioid medications organized.
Lockable document bags and medication bags are an ideal solution for healthcare workers who are treating people in recovery from opioid addiction. These can help with the storage and security of medical records and potentially dangerous substances that are nonetheless needed to treat people who have struggled with opiate drugs.