Opiate addiction has become a major problem in the United States. This is because many people are using it to treat chronic pain, but the reality is that it can cause dependence and addiction after just one use! Learn more about this alarming issue and what you should do if you find yourself addicted.
America is in the midst of an opiate addiction crisis. Every day, more and more people are becoming addicted to prescription painkillers and other opiates. The reasons for this are complex, but one thing is clear: if we don’t take action now, things will only get worse.
The relationship between opiates and America runs deep. The first wave of this crisis began in 1982, when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved MS Contin – a time-release version of morphine – for use by cancer patients. Morphine is an opiate. This approval opened the flood gates: over the next decade, opiate prescriptions nearly tripled and, by 2001, doctors were prescribing enough painkillers to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month. At first glance, this statistic seems somewhat reasonable – after all, we know that opiates can be incredibly beneficial in treating pain from cancer and other terminal illnesses. In addition, many people rely on these drugs to treat ongoing chronic conditions such as backache or arthritis. So why shouldn’t they be readily available?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In any given year, only about 8% of Americans will suffer from cancer while 11% will experience significant joint problems requiring long-term treatment. But when you consider all of the conditions for which opiates are prescribed, the number of Americans receiving these drugs in 2010 alone jumps to an estimated 38% or 122 million people.
All of these prescriptions have consequences – namely that, if taken over a period of time, they can cause dependence and addiction.
It may seem hard to believe that one use could lead to addiction, but it happens more often than you might think. For example, according to Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 26% of prescription painkiller abusers meet the criteria for addiction after just their first try. What’s worse is most non-addicted users rapidly develop a dependence on the medication.
What This Looks Like: Prescription painkillers and other opiates (e.g., Vicodin and OxyContin) are among the most frequently abused drugs in the country. According to NIDA, nearly four million Americans were either abusing or became dependent on these drugs in 2008 – that’s 1.9% of the population over age 12! As you can imagine, this prevalence has moved abuse into the inner circle of addiction .
The consequences of such widespread abuse are devastating: overdose deaths from prescription opioids have increased threefold since 1999, with 16,651 lives claimed in 2010 alone . To put that number in perspective, deaths from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined totaled only 8,257 fatalities.
If you think you might be addicted, the first step is to seek professional help. The next step is to find support – for example, by joining Narcotics Anonymous or another 12-step program. These groups are free and offer the invaluable benefit of providing a community of recovering addicts who know exactly what you’re going through. They’ll also give you specific tools for coping with addiction, such as developing strategies for avoiding triggers that could cause relapse. What’s more , many communities have local counselors who run similar programs but may not be affiliated with a national organization like NA . If your doctor prescribes medication (e.g., methadone), they can help you find a certified treatment facility that will monitor your recovery.
In addition to inpatient and outpatient treatment, many people who have struggled with opiate addiction have found success in alternative methods such as meditation . These techniques can help calm the cravings and train your body to regulate feelings of anxiety – something that’s crucial when rebuilding a healthy lifestyle after being dependent on drugs.
If you know someone who struggles with addiction, remember that even though they get labeled as an addict, they’re still a person – one who could very well return to their former self if given the right support. This means it’s important for friends and family not to lose hope or resort to enabling the abuser.
Instead, think about what you can do to help them get sober (e.g., attend NA meetings with them). It will be hard but rewarding work, and in the end it may just save their life. If their problem is so severe that they refuse this type of help, don’t give up on them – instead, try to remain objective when discussing treatment options even if it means being willing to let go in order for them to get better .
As a society, we’ve become too accepting of prescription drug abuse in general and opiate drugs in particular – the result is that many people who could otherwise recover from an addiction never have a chance because they’re never told how dangerous these substances really are.
Road To Recovery Wellness Center is dedicated to helping those struggling with addiction. That is why we work with many insurance companies to bring you and your loved ones the help they need. If you don’t think we take you insurance, don’t hesitate, give us a call and we will walk side by side through this journey